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Building strong kids
United Way looks to crunch out obesity
new vlc crunch out obesity Ellinwood Elementary school
The six-week Crunch Out Obesity program has reached the halfway point. Students earn points for logging exercise and foods eaten in an activity journal they received at the start of the program. Hans and Franz, the bodybuilding duo, helped pump up the excitement. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

Crunch Out Obesity may take a bite out of Barton County’s obesity problem.  That’s what Becca Maxwell, board member with the United Way of Central Kansas, hopes.   The six-week project  encouraging kids to log exercise and the food they eat is designed to help Ellinwood students adopt healthy habits that could drive Barton County’s ranking in health in the opposite direction – up. (View the complete study at )
“ The results are shocking,” said Maxwell.  “I want to make Barton County a healthier place to live and work.”
Maxwell is the retail service manager for Ellinwood’s Sunflower Bank.  Along with several United Way of Central Kansas partners, including Golden Belt Community Foundation, Ellinwood Recreation Center, Central Kansas Orthopedic Group, and Dr. Charlie and Denise Joslin, the bank agreed to sponsor the Crunch Out Obesity project.
Spearheaded by  Maxwell,  the COO crew visited Ellinwood schools at the beginning at March. Ellinwood Elementary School and St. Joseph School fourth through sixth graders were invited to take part in the project.  Maxwell brought Hans and Franz, otherwise known as Jordan Klima and Steve Kummer, along to “pump students up” about moving more and eating wholesome foods to build strong bodies.  The duo flexed muscles and encouraged the kids to have fun as they earned points. At the end of the six-week program, those points can be turned in for prizes.  
“As the pilot program in Ellinwood we are certainly learning how to motivate and educate this generation that diet and exercise needs to be a part of their daily routine,” Maxwell said.  “At a time when obesity is at an all-time high I hope we can get as many of the youth involved and active in this new program in Ellinwood.”  

Battle plan
Obesity has been a persistent factor of the years, and while it wasn’t the only factor, it is one that led to Barton County dropping in rank from 68 to 86 out of 101 counties in Kansas from 2014 to 2015.   These statistics, while shocking, have been a wake-up call in every city in the county.   The best way to turn around adult obesity, according to the study sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson foundation, is to focus on building healthy habits in children.  
Another project aimed at instilling good exercise habits in kids is the Walking School Bus program which starts back up in Great Bend and Hoisington today. (See related story on page...)  Last fall, the pilot project proved kids not only enjoy walking together to and from school, but they perform better in class when they do.  This has prompted the administrations in both districts to continue the program past the pilot stage.  
Students are half-way through the project.  Every two weeks, the COO crew returns to draw winners from participants that have logged five out of seven days in their journals. Prizes include health related items like jump ropes, water bottles and recyclable bags.
Parents play a crucial role in their children’s success by signing off the journals weekly.  Each week, the program focuses on a different food group, and kids log how many servings they eat.  Fresh fruits, vegetables, and this week dairy products have been spotlighted.    
Each student that completes all six weeks for their journals and also completes an essay with the theme, “I am living healthy,” will be eligible to win additional prizes.  First prizes will be one bike for a boy and one for a girl, and second place prizes will be “Get on the ball” prize bags.
 With the Ellinwood Wellness Center grand opening on May 1, Maxwell said the program may expand to the greater community.  More details will be released as they are firmed up.