Faith leaders unite for healthy-kids campaign

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By Sandy Barnes

Rabbi Jamie Arnold of the Beth Evergreen congregation and other area faith leaders are joining a national initiative to help youngsters stay healthy through diet and exercise.

During a program at Beth Evergreen on Oct. 6, Arnold and other participants discussed ways to address the issue of childhood obesity through collaborative efforts.

“Our Faith United movement is joining with Let’s Move,” said Andrew Hysell, program director for the Campaign for Healthy Kids. “That’s where change is going to happen.”

Let’s Move is first lady Michelle Obama’s campaign to end childhood obesity.

“One-third of all children in the United States are either overweight or obese,” said Hysell. “This is a moral issue.”

Faith leaders have the moral authority to help bring about change, Hysell said.

While discussing what Judaism is doing about the issue of childhood obesity, Arnold said that healthy living starts with kids. 

“At Beth Evergreen, we have the notion of learning as a life-long exercise,” Arnold said. 

The word “kosher” means fitness, he explained.

“Kosher fitness is about wellness and wholeness,” Arnold said.

Efforts at his congregation include improving access to affordable and healthy food, and also doing advocacy within the schools, Arnold added. 

Placing exercise in the context of religious activity is another health initiative at Beth Evergreen, said Arnold.

Those who attended the Saturday program at Beth Evergreen went on a 2-mile hike and also enjoyed a vegetarian lunch.

Arnold also explained that the Faith United program at his congregation was held during Sukkot, a Jewish holiday that calls for community involvement.

“By your presence, you’re helping us fulfill our obligation,” he said.

“I’m elated about this interfaith issue,” said the Rev. James Fouther of the United Church of Montbello in Denver.

“We have aerobic activities in church; more upbeat music provided during worship,” said Fouther.

His church members also participate in walking activities and have changed after-service snacks to more healthful alternatives, Fouther said.

“We’ve partnered with Denver urban gardens,” he added.

“I’m pleased to take the next steps,” said Fouther. “We already feel we’ve been working with Let’s Move.”

The Rev. Ann Bolson of Wild Rose Congregational Church in Evergreen said her congregation’s mission is advocacy for full and just access to health and human services.

“As early as 1985, the United Church of Christ adopted a statement on health,” said Bolson. “We vowed go engage in preventive health education and to nurture personal responsibility for health maintenance.”

Bolson also said that Wild Rose Church participated in the first lady’s 3-million-mile walk across the nation last year in which the denomination submitted more than 250,000 walking miles from congregations across the country. 

“Exercise programs require encouragement,” Bolson remarked.

Among participants at the event were Vincent DeMarco, national coordinator of Faith United to End Childhood Obesity, and Norah Deluhery of the USDA center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

At the close of the program, Arnold offered a healthy suggestion that others seemed to enjoy.

“I have a feeling we should do a song and dance,” he said.

Contact reporter Sandy Barnes at sandy@evergreenco.com or call 303-350-1042.