It’s 3:30 p.m. at a suburban Los Angeles elementary school and the class of 22 fourth graders appears to have no regrets about staying after school.
While other kids might be sitting at home watching television, these children are laughing and shouting as Cynthia Singleton dons an apron, sticks pencils in her hair and launches into her routine as a tacky waitress selling unhealthy foods. The laughter gets even louder when she challenges her young customers on their food choices and why they eat the way they do.
A part-time actress and retired businesswoman, Cynthia is a CATCH Healthy Habits volunteer. She works with a team of volunteers to teach lifelong healthy habits to children in grades K-5. The benefits to both age groups—developing healthy eating habits and discovering the benefits of regular exercise—are significant.
“There’s nothing like it,” she says. “We have to keep the kids excited, so it can be a physical program. A lot of our volunteers say they don’t have to go to the gym or take a walk after working with the kids.”
The research from the OASIS pilot program shows that children are eating more fruits and vegetables, know the foods they should eat less often, spend less time with TV and video games, read food nutrition labels, and are confident they will increase their physical activity. The learning is fun, thanks to games like Dragon’s Tail Tag and Snackin’ Time on the Trail and volunteer-inspired rap songs that emphasize the five-fruits-and-vegetables-a-day goal.
Cynthia enjoys being part of team that benefits her own community, and recruits and trains other adults to join the program.
"It's important that we keep up our strength and work to maintain our health and flexibility. This program does so much for everyone involved. It’s the most fulfilling thing I have ever done.”