Between 2010 and 2015, New Mexico has tracked significant declines in the overweight and obesity rates among students in kindergarten and third grade. Throughout this timeframe, Healthy Kids Healthy Communities (HKHC)* has been a key program for helping children eat well and move more. Starting with one pilot site in Las Cruces, the initiative now reaches 15 counties and five tribal communities, serving nearly one in four of New Mexico’s public elementary school students in communities with the highest poverty rates.
HKHC builds state and local partnerships to make it easier for kids and low-income families to eat healthy and be active, anywhere they live, learn, work, or play. The program focuses on making policy and environmental changes in four areas:
- Improving the built environment to make it easier for kids and families to be active. By setting up shared use agreements between schools and communities and creating Safe Routes to School so students can walk and bike easily and safely.
- Creating healthier school environments. By promoting salad bars, conducting fruit and vegetable taste tests in class, and incorporating local produce into school meals, more than 32,000 students in HKHC schools are getting healthier options to choose from. Schools also are finding more opportunities for physical activity during the day and encouraging students to walk and bike to school. These efforts have built physical activity opportunities for nearly 28,000 students in HKHC schools.
- Making healthier foods more available and affordable, especially in rural and remote areas. The state is working to build more farmers markets, create school and community gardens, and help smaller stores stock and market healthier choices. HKHC also recently began working with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Education Program, allowing them to expand into additional counties and tribal areas, and reach low-income adults for the first time.
- Supporting healthier childcare settings. HKHM supports childcare providers in making healthy foods and beverages and time for play and physical activity a normal part of the day.
Healthy Kids New Mexico also runs a 5-2-1-O Challenge, encouraging children to eat five or more fruits and vegetables each day, have no more than two hours of screen time per day, be active for at least one hour, and drink lots of water (H2O) each day.
By taking a comprehensive approach to childhood obesity prevention, the state and its partners are creating healthier schools and communities for all children.
*Note: There is no connection to the former RWJF national program Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities.