NEWARK, N.J., Feb. 10, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Mayor Cory A. Booker and Let's Move! Newark today announced an innovative initiative with Nestle and Newark Now to address the obesity problem facing the children of Newark. The new program aims to help tackle Newark's high childhood obesity rate through community education supported by a $100,000 contribution from Nestle.
According to The New Jersey Childhood Obesity Study, Newark children have higher rates of obesity compared to the national data. Among Newark children ages 3-5 years, 27 percent were classified as obese, far above the national average of 10 percent for children ages 2-5 cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"I am so excited to announce that Nestle is becoming our newest supporter of Let's Move! Newark," said Mayor Cory A. Booker. "Through this new initiative, Nestle and Newark Now will empower our city's grandparents, parents and caregivers on how they can improve the nutrition of their young children by promoting small dietary changes and healthy activity."
"We all have a responsibility for the health of future generations and through this new initiative we can make a positive impact," Mayor Booker continued. "Childhood obesity is a national problem, but many of Newark's children will have a better chance to lead healthier lives thanks to the commitment of organizations like Nestle, Newark Now and Let's Move! Newark. Everyday we are becoming a stronger and healthier Newark."
A key component of the program is a bilingual public health nutritionist who will teach a six-part program on the basics of improving the diets of young children, including infants, toddlers and preschoolers. The nutritionist will also identify and train peer educators, who can then educate others who care for young children.
The curriculum for this pilot program, developed using the nutritional expertise of Gerber, a part of the Nestle family, and reviewed by third-party experts, is expected to highlight the importance of breastfeeding, increasing fruit and vegetable consumption, healthy snacking, dealing with a fussy eater, portion control and physical activity. Lessons will be modeled by offering healthy food choices at each session. Tricycles will be provided to the centers as part of the effort in order to promote activity as part of a healthy lifestyle.
"Parents, grandparents and caregivers are seeking information about how to make healthy food choices when feeding their little ones," said Marilyn Knox, president and CEO of Nestle Infant Nutrition North America. "We at Gerber are committed to working with Mayor Booker, Newark Now and the city's network of Family Success Centers to empower residents with knowledge to tackle obesity prevention in young children through community-based education."
The recently formed Newark-Nestle Nutrition Advisory Board will oversee the program. The board includes experts in nutrition and public health from the Newark area as well as community members experienced with engaging neighborhood residents. Newark Now, which coordinates activities across the city's Family Success Centers, will serve as the program's lead agency and Michael Anne Kyle, Newark Now chief operating officer, will chair the advisory board.
A number of community organizations and institutions along with local government agencies are playing a pivotal role in the success of this program, including the Newark Youth Policy Board, Let's Move! Newark, Beth Israel Medical Center, Rutgers University and the city's Department of Child and Family Well-being.
THE GERBER COMMITMENT TO EARLY CHILDHOOD NUTRITION
Gerber Products Company, part of Nestle, is committed to nourishing a healthier generation through its Start Healthy, Stay Healthy™ initiative that combines science, products and educational resources and services that are designed to encourage the early establishment of healthy eating habits in children from birth to preschool.
The landmark Nestle Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study (FITS) research is the largest and most comprehensive population-based study of the diets of young children in the United States. The most recent FITS data reported that between 12 and 24 months, a diet low in fruits and vegetables and high in sweets and saturated fats begins to develop. This pattern is established by 24 months, continues through the preschool years and mimics some of the unhealthy eating habits seen in older children and adults.
ABOUT NEWARK NOW
Newark Mayor Cory A. Booker founded Newark Now in 2003 to provide Newark residents with skills, tools, and support to transform their neighborhoods. Today, Newark Now is an intermediary organization that partners with municipal government, residents, grassroots organizations, and the philanthropic community to catalyze the achievement of significant positive outcomes throughout the city. The organization channels the efforts and energy of the grassroots community to improve safety, economic independence, and civic participation. www.newarknow.org
ABOUT NESTLE INFANT NUTRITION AND GERBER
Nestle Infant Nutrition, part of Nestle S.A., a world leader in nutrition, health and wellness and is dedicated to infant nutrition. Gerber Products Company, founded in 1928, officially joined the Nestle family in 2007. Nestle and Gerber's combined resources and scientific research expertise have enabled the company to become a worldwide leader in early childhood nutrition. Gerber produces more than 200 food products, all of which are a part of the proprietary Gerber® Start Healthy, Stay Healthy™ nutrition system. Start Healthy, Stay Healthy combines products, educational resources and services that are designed to encourage the early establishment of healthy eating habits in children from birth to preschool.
For more information visit www.gerber.com.
 New Jersey Childhood Obesity Survey, Chartbook | Newark, Summer 2010, Rutgers Center for State Health Policy (pp 6)
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Prevalence of Obesity Among Children and Adolescents: United States, Trends 1963-1965 Through 2007-2008, June 2010 (pp 5)
SOURCE Nestle Infant Nutrition