One Philly teen's fight against childhood obesity

When it comes to encouraging kids to eat healthier, teaching them how to do it isn't an easy task. But 17-year-old Kaseir Archie has found the key is for teens like himself to deliver the message to his peers.

Over the past year, the Philadelphia teen has been working with young athletes in the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation's program to help expand their knowledge about the world of health, teaching them how to make better food choices, and how they can benefit from living a healthy lifestyle.

Since he was 11, Archie has participated in Snider Hockey’s year round after school program, which provides full equipment, ice time and experienced coaching to more than 1,800 children at no charge. The foundation reaches out to about another 4,000 kids through additional programming.

“[The kids] respect me as being one of the better athletes. With the kids, it doesn’t seem as much as a chore when I teach them. It’s a different vibe,” said Archie, a senior at William W. Bodine High School this fall.

Many of the kids will show me how they substituted a fruit cup for a Fruit Roll-up, or 100 percent juice for a drink like Hi-C, he said.

Archie began teaching the nutrition class as part of his commitment as an ambassador of the Youth Advisory Board for The Alliance for a Healthier Generation. The non-profit founded by the American Heart Association and the Clinton Foundation is dedicated to reducing the prevalence of childhood obesity and empowering kids to develop lifelong, healthy habits. He was recently chosen to serve a second year on the advisory board, which consists of 20 teens around the country.

“The Alliance believes that young people must have a seat at the table with adults to address the childhood obesity epidemic. Our Youth Ambassadors are inspiring communities across the country to build healthier environments for their generation and many generations to come," said Howell Wechsler, EdD, MPH, CEO of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation in a statement.

Snider Hockey started working with the Alliance a couple of years ago to expand its goals of helping children stay physically active and developing leadership skills.

The coaches know a lot about sports nutrition, and the Alliance gave us the framework on how to educate kids about it, said Jan Koziara, director of hockey operations for the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation.

Koziara said the coaches immediately knew that Archie should apply when they heard about the Youth Advisory Board.

“He’s been one of those kids who has consistently made good decisions and took to a leadership role right away…He also understands how much he can impact his team, his rink, his community,” Koziara said.

Not surprisingly, Archie has made an impression on the kids by teaching the nutrition classes. Koziara said parents have pulled himself and others aside of to tell them, “I’ve been trying to get my son or daughter to eat healthy. All of the sudden, Coach Kaseir told them to eat more fruits and vegetables and they do it to because they want to become better hockey players.”

Archie said he became concerned about childhood obesity when he began to notice that a lot of kids weren’t eating right in school and the neighborhood.

“They were going to the corner store three times a day and picking unhealthy items. A huge bag of chips and soda were a part of their lunch everyday along with candy, cakes, and sweets,” he said.

“I learned to eat healthier because you can see the difference on the ice – how eating can affect you. Even the best players, instead of a nice sandwich, they might have a barbeque chicken sandwich, soda, and cake, and you can just see them dragging their feet the rest of the day.”

As an ambassador, Archie also hopes to improve his high school wellness council this year, and he’ll be out there promoting healthier living. In October, he’s been invited by the Independence Blue Cross Foundation and The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to speak at their Healthy Futures: A Recipe for Childhood Wellness conference in Philadelphia.

His work has also had an effect on those close to him. “With my friends and family, their eating habits changed because they know work that I do. They’re more conscious of what they’re eating around me,” said Archie.

At home, it influenced how his mom shops for the family. They changed to 100 percent juice, buy more fruits and more of a variety, and more whole grain items, he said.

His advice to adults to help kids eat healthier? Be specific and give examples. He says make suggestions instead of telling kids how to eat a certain way since they’re probably not read the nutrition label. Tell them the healthier selection and give them ideas of what items are better than other items.


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