MEND program in Corpus Christi in the South Texas Catholic Web Post


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New program seeks to “MEND” unhealthy lifestyles for children 
June 1, 2015
by Mary Cottingham, South Texas Catholic

Eight-year-old Esmeralda Andrade raised her fist in the air and shouted “Do it!” at the Central Catholic Elementary MEND class on May 6. Andrade and mom, Blanche, along with other children between the ages of 6-13, their parents or caregivers are taking classes, which teach families to eat healthier and be more active.

MEND is an acronym for Mind, Exercise, Nutrition and “Do it!” While, the first three components reflect how to make healthy lifestyle changes, by learning about making healthier meal choices, portion control and exercise –Do it! Reflects action.

The free community outreach program is operated by Catholic Charities’ Healthy Living Center, which is under contract with the city to implement the program in Corpus Christi. The city of Corpus Christi and the Corpus Christi-Nueces County Public Health District provide funding.

MEND trainers from the United Kingdom observed and participated in the May 6 class. The trainers included Ben Jones, Dr. Zoe Williams, who is a general practitioner and Paul Sacher who has a doctorate in Child Health and is founder of the MEND program. The trainers spent four days in Corpus Christi training staff who will lead the classes.

Local program leaders, Valerie Montemayor and Zach Gatlin led families through a series of activities. One activity involved nine-year-old Giovanni Montoya who showed leaders the amount of cereal he usually pours into his bowl every morning. Montoya learned that by measuring his cereal he can cut out half the calories he usually eats for that one meal.

Each member of the class was given a free measuring cup along with a handout of low cost or free weekend activities in and around Corpus Christi that will, “get families off the couch and get them active,” program manager Angie Garcia said.

The members spent about an hour in the classroom, participating in their individual groups and class discussions, covering topics such as portion control, healthy and unhealthy food groups, or as Garcia says, “MEND friendly and MEND unfriendly foods.”

While the first hour was an interactive family session, the other half of the session was filled with outside activities for the children. Gatlin combined fun and games with physical exercise, while Montemayor discussed reading food labels with parents.

Classes are currently being held on Monday and Wednesday from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Central Catholic Elementary School for 6-13 year-old children and their parents; at Catholic Charities on Saturday at 10 a.m. for 2-5 year-old children and their parents; and at Amistad Community Health Center on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5:15-7:15 pm. for 6-13 year-old children and their parents.

MEND families work together to learn new ways to eat healthier and live more actively. Each 10-week program offers parents the tools they need to create a brighter future for their children.