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Who We Are

Why We Created KID HEALTHY
From the founder, Jackie Teichmann

I grew up on a farm in Louisiana eating fresh fruits and vegetables, breathing fresh air, and having lots of room to run and play. We spent much of our day helping my parents on the tomato farm and our free time was spent outdoors building forts, running around, riding bikes, and reading books. We had no electronics to speak of – only a radio. The TV didn’t arrive until I was well into my teens and it only had one program a week that I enjoyed, Bonanza. Those days, kids generally weren’t overweight. My brother was chubby, but that was because he had asthma and couldn’t exercise.

Fast food didn’t exist when we were young. We ate vegetables every meal, along with beans and rice. Families learned to be creative with vegetables because they emerged from the Depression when you had to ration supplies and make do without. Dessert for my family consisted of my grandmother’s infamous yellow squash pie. Every now and then, someone would bring a bag of pears and Georgia peaches. What a treat! There is nothing better. My uncle had a fig tree and would make treats with figs. Our milk, butter, eggs, and meat came from the animals we raised – chickens, pigs, and cows. On rare occasions, we could go to the café in town and order a hamburger, but it was about the size of today’s sliders. Vegetables and fruits were ever-present in our lives. There were no such thing as processed foods – just natural, healthy, and organic produce direct from soil.

Years later here in Orange County, I led an agency that provided education to children who had Type I diabetes, or juvenile onset diabetes. This devastating, life-changing disease requires a great deal of medical and lifestyle education in order to remain stable and healthy. We worked with children with regard to their nutrition because with a healthy diet, they could achieve a 10 percent improvement their condition. Of course, we emphasized a balanced diet low in sugar and fats. We also emphasized exercise because they could also experience an extra 35% improvement in their condition if they were physically fit and active.

In the mid-1990’s, we began to see more and more overweight children coming to us with a diagnosis of diabetes. Over time, it became clear they were developing Type II diabetes – the kind of diabetes that historically develops only in adults. Their high-fat/high-sugar diet, along with an inactive lifestyle, directly contributed to their development of this serious disease. They were part of the national obesity epidemic, which was starting to make headlines at the time. As a mother and grandmother, my heart went out to these kids.

I had to do something, but what? I started talking with different friends and contacts. My friend Teresa Samaniego, Director of Public Affairs at ABC7, shared my passion to help kids become healthy. ABC7 was the first to come aboard and brought media attention to the growing problem. Nutrition and exercise needed to be a part of the fundamentals of diabetes management, so we looked for a program that was already established. And since we didn’t have the resources to develop our own curriculum and because it would take too long to get it approved in the public schools, a partnership with the Network for a Healthy California was formed. Their Power Play! Campaign was a perfect fit. Their enthusiastic coordinators were already working directly in schools with approved materials teaching 4th and 5th graders (the most impressionable age) the benefits of good nutrition and of being active for 60 minute a day. Our growing list of partners and sponsors added fun incentives, pedometers and neat tracking materials. And that is how KID HEALTHY’s first program, Steps to Healthy Living, was born.

The Steps to Healthy Living campaign’s nickname is “Steps” because we stress reaching 10,000 steps each day. We launched the campaign in 2003 and in our first year, we had over 3,000 students enrolled. The next year, we had 19,000 enrolled. More and more children were getting the message. Parents and teachers were also learning along with the children. We were able to evaluate the program over 3 years between 2004 and 2007 and the results showed that the message was getting across to the students, teachers, and their families. We were all so excited! The program grew and many community partners joined forces with us. In 2005, Kaiser Permanente came on board as a major sponsor and over the years contributed over 1 million dollars to KID HEALTHY! In 2008, we became fiscally sponsored by Volunteer Center Orange County. They handle of all of our finances and we operate under their 501c (3) as a non–profit organization.

Our programs continue to grow and expand. In 2009, we realized that many parents in low-income communities had been inactive participants in their child’s Local School Wellness Policies (LSWP) due to language and cultural barriers, so we established Padres en Acción. Padres en Acción is a parent-led training program that empowers ethnically diverse parents to engage in school wellness policy, leadership, and communication skills. It was the parents from our first pilot group that adopted the parent-led structured recess program into the curriculum. Concerned with the elementary schools’ lack of school-based PE time, the parents expressed interest in leading organized activities and games during recess. To date, the program has recruited over 80 parents, whom are not only advocating for stricter school policies, but also getting over 2,000 students moving during recess!

KID HEALTHY’s goal is to empower elementary school students and their families to adopt life-changing nutrition and fitness solutions through engaging programs and campaigns. Our vision is for healthy, active kids in all of Southern California. And we couldn’t do it without our funding sponsors and partnerships that all share our same passion, “Kids Moving More, Eating Better, and Making Healthy Choices!”
Jackie Teichmann (retired as of January 1, 2014)