Dee McCaffrey knows what it is like to struggle with her weight.
For much of her youth, McCaffrey was overweight. By 1992, the 4’10” organic scientist weighed more than 200 pounds and had trouble doing everyday activities.
McCaffrey decided to use her scientific knowledge to change her own life, opting to eat only natural foods to ensure her body would absorb the nutrients it needed (and avoid the bad stuff). The scientist dropped 100 pounds in the process, and switched careers to become a full-time nutritionist.
The Arizona-based educator quickly found success. She taught healthy eating classes, launched a company called the Center for Processed Free Living and even published several books. But McCaffrey wanted to do more.
“I started teaching classes to affluent women. I would have these classes full of people, [but] it just felt to me I wasn’t reaching the right part of the population,” McCaffrey recalls. “There are certain areas of the valley where we live where we have a huge population of disadvantaged children who need to learn more about proper eating.”
So in 2007, McCaffrey and her husband, Michael, worked with their local Boys and Girls Club chapter to launch classes to teach young people about making healthy food choices. The classes were so popular among the kids that the couple created a nonprofit through Processed Free America to support them.
Classes last four weeks and are run completely by volunteers. The program is supported through a portion of the proceeds from the for-profit entity and book sales.
The program also includes a certified training program that teaches other adults to offer nutrition classes in their own communities. “We’ve got a number of them around the country and we’re looking to get more,” Michael McCaffrey says.
Designed for students aged 7 to 12, the classes teach youngsters about how fruits and vegetables nourish the body. Instructors present the fruits and veggies to the students, instructing them how to pick out which vitamins are in foods and how they are helpful.
“It’s very multi-sensory,” Dee McCaffrey says. “We also have the fruits and vegetables right there for them to see and touch and smell and then eat… We have them make projects out of the foods. They make salads, they make fruit tarts.”
Students are more likely to try new foods (and like them!) after completing the class, the McCaffreys say. Sometimes, the kids even surprise their own parents with their willingness to eat foods such as broccoli that they might not have tried at home.
One student, Michael McCaffrey recalls, hadn’t seen a walnut before and was eager to try it out.
“They learn what new things are, they are being exposed to new types of foods,” Dee McCaffrey says. “It’s really opening up their world.”
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Leaders are people who are actively working - either professionally or as volunteers - to change policies and environments to help children eat better and be more active. We use the following criteria to evaluate whether to approve an applicant for Leader status with the Voices for Healthy Kids Action Center.
Do you meet the criteria below? If so, register as a Leader here. There is no cost to be a Leader.
At least one item must be checked within each of the following two categories:
1. Applicant is focused on changing policies and environments
They are working on one of Voices for Healthy Kid's six issue areas:
Ensure foods and beverages in schools meet dietary guidelines
Expand community access to high quality food
Expand physical activity programs in and out of school
Improve built environment in communities to increase physical activity
Use pricing strategies to promote purchase of healthier foods
Use regulation/policy to reduce youth exposure to unhealthy food marketing
They are working on other obesity-related issues, such as:
Their primary focus is working on individual behavior (e.g., teaching kids about food, play, etc.), but they have access to organizations that could provide opportunities to change environments, such as
Public Health Agencies
Their project is commercial, but contributes positively to changing policies and environments, such as:
2. Applicant is organizing others or contributing to organizing efforts
They are organizing others by:
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They provide support to organizations or leaders doing work changing policies and environments, such as:
They are a leader in a governmental body that may be the target of organizing efforts to change policies and environments, such as a:
Federal or state agency
Mayor or other local executive office
Federal, state, county or local public health department
Federal, state, county or transportation department
Federal, state or local education agency or school board
If the applicant claims to work for an organization, at least one item must be checked below:
3. Applicant works for an organization:
Has an email address that matches the domain of the organization they list
Is listed on the organization website as staff
The Voices for Healthy Kids Action Center is looking for bloggers who can write about issues that matter to our community on a regular basis. If you would like to be considered for this network, please check this box.