Skip to Content

Taking to the Airwaves



There’s a lot of talk in the childhood obesity movement about the unhealthy messages children see on television (just see our story above). But one project run by Milwaukee Public Television (MPTV) is broadcasting programming designed for kids to learn about good health — and they’re not just sticking to using the tube, either.
MPTV’s “I Am the F!T Generation” is a pilot program working to combat childhood obesity in Wisconsin, where one out of three children is now overweight. Partnering with  community organizations, the program emphasizes positive nutritional choices and physical activity among kids in the Badger State. 
The effort begins on MPTV’s own airwaves. The station has developed a series of public service announcements, starring local hip-hop band The Figureheads, which promotes the popular “54321 Go!” guide. “54321 Go!” teaches kids to stay active and eat well through simple initiatives, such as eating five fruits and vegetables each day.
The short videos gained quick notice, even earning the station an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Achievement for Children’s Programs. But F!T involves more than just airing PSAs during MPTV’s kids’ programming. The initiative also brings together a number of community partners to educate children and families about the importance of good nutrition, physical activity and other factors that could help prevent obesity.
For example, F!T has given the Sesame Workshop’s “Food for Thought: Eating Well on a Budget” kits to 4,000 people in the community through partners such as the YMCA, the Salvation Army, the Boys & Girls Clubs and the local children’s museum. These kits, available in English and Spanish, come with a DVD featuring Sesame Street characters talking about eating well, buying healthy food on a budget and preparing nutritious meals.
“They’re very powerful,” MPTV’s Karen Van Hoof tells The Inside Track. “This is intended for families who are struggling, but it’s also been a good thing to get out in the community to families who aren’t… it’s just been a wonderful, wonderful tool.”
F!T also partnered with local elementary schools, with an MPTV cooking show host working with students to craft healthy meals. F!T also provided its “Vacation Station” booklets to the community, an instructive booklet that includes puzzles, games, craft projects, healthy recipes and other activities designed to promote good health. 
The booklets have been given to local libraries, and F!T worked with community groups such as the YMCA to promote a “healthy habits” contest tied to the activities in the booklet, with kids nabbing prizes such as trips to a local water park and a Milwaukee Brewers game, Van Hoof says.
F!T officials are now evaluating the program’s successes (and failures) to see what parts of the program have made the most impact on improving health in the community, Van Hoof says. 
“We’re really working hard to determine where we are right now, and where we need to go,” she says. 
Van Hoof adds that while officials study the quantitative evidence, there is some qualitative evidence from the children themselves that shows the programs have been successful.
“They seem to really get that watching television or playing with their video games less, and being active, is good for them,” she says. “If they have access to the good foods… they’re more likely to prefer those, and that’s what we’re hoping.”