Healthy eating and health topics in general are not usually the first (or second or third) things on people’s minds during the holidays. Most of us allow ourselves a bit - or a lot - of overindulgence from Halloween to New Years. For many of us, it’s more like a food frenzy.
Regina Sullivan, health outreach specialist for the Clyde Malone Community Center, never misses an opportunity to bring the message of good health and good nutrition to the Center’s visitors, even at times most associated with sweet treats.
From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday (Dec. 22), the Malone Community Center and KFOR will be hosting Operation Santa, and a Health Fair, as they did with their Halloween bash in October.
Working with social service agencies, the National Guard and local merchants, KFOR’s Operation Santa is a non-profit organization that provides a special new toy for children who might otherwise go without on Christmas. Families who have pre-registered at the Malone Center can bring their children in to pick one of the gifts donated.
Sullivan and Executive Director Larry Williams hope to bring the gift of better health to these families and all those served by the Malone Community Center, not only at this special time of year, but also year round. Williams, a cancer survivor who shared his story with others on the “Community Conversations - I Am A Cancer Survivor” program sponsored by the Community Health Endowment of Lincoln, knows that early screening and intervention can make the difference between life and death.
Sullivan and the Malone Community Center take advantage of the holidays to provide important health messages and services to those who need it most. Families attending Operation Santa can also find a variety of types of health, nutrition, and wellness information from Malone partners, like Partnership for a Healthy Lincoln, a community health and wellness non-profit that exhibits at the Malone’s health fairs providing information on healthy beverage choices. Attendees can also be screened for diabetes and high blood pressure.
Home away from home
For many, the Malone Community Center is a home away from home, offering out of school programs for kids aged 5 – 13, that provide academic support, structured recreation, arts and crafts, computer and fun time, health and nutrition education, and cultural awareness; a health outreach program for the African American community targeting adults who do not have a medical or dental home; and a senior program, a collaborative effort with Aging Partners of Lincoln and the JoAnn Maxey Center, that provides elders with social activities, health education, and a nutritious lunch.
A common thread in these year round programs, is proper nutrition. Sullivan has made a point of incorporating healthy snacks and beverages into the programs and vending options at the Center. African Americans, Hispanics, and lower income individuals are over-represented in the numbers of Americans fighting chronic obesity-related diseases like diabetes. Proper nutrition choices are one defense against developing these diseases.
One culprit, sugar sweetened beverages, represents a major source of calories consumed by Americans, says Dr. Bob Rauner, director of Partnership for a Healthy Lincoln. Their healthy beverage display at Malone’s health fairs helps families better understand how sugary drinks impact family health.