MADISON, Wis. - A new program is pairing seniors with children to encourage healthier eating and physical activity.
The CATCH Healthy Habits program seeks to combat the problem of obesity by engaging adults age 50 and older as mentors to teach healthy lifelong habits to children in grades K-5.
"The reason it will make a difference is the rate of childhood obesity has spiraled out of control," said Laurie Bibo, who works with the Madison Senior Center.
Bibo said the volunteer leaders at the Madison Senior Center benefit as well.
"By pairing the two groups of people we're learning together. We're learning the nutrition lessons together," Bibo said.
After the students participate in games that double as physical exercise, they sit down for a heart-healthy snack.
"Like carrots, broccoli, tomatoes and like ranch dip," said student Kessiah Robinson.
Then, the children participating in the Madison School & Community Recreation after-school program at Frank Allis Elementary School get a lesson about health, the heart and problems that can result from eating too much unhealthy food.
"Your heart needs to do more work to pump blood throughout the body," said student Praikta Date.
The lessons are just an hour a week, and Bibo they are already working both ways.
"The seniors like to become a role model for the children and find they've adopted healthier habits themselves," Bibo said.
The CATCH Healthy Habits program will move to other area elementary schools for an hour a week for about nine weeks.
"We want to get as many going as we can so we can touch as many children in Madison as possible," Bibo said.
Those interested in volunteering for the program can find more information at this website.