“To tackle obesity, the Jewish Community Center (JCC) Association focused on one simple premise: it’s much easier to create good health habits than it is to change bad ones.”
With this introduction, JCC Association has been featured as a particularly effective agency in the nation’s battle against obesity in Trust for America’s Health 2012 report F as in Fat. Page 86 of the report focuses on the success of Discover: CATCH, the program to introduce healthy activity and eating habits to JCC preschool children; the successful efforts of JCC camps to transform their food offerings; and JCC Grows, a program that encourages JCCs and camps to plant and tend social-justice gardens.
JCC Association is the leadership network of Jewish Community Centers in the U.S. and Canada, providing consultation and programming services to almost 350 JCC, YM-YWHA, and camp sites. It has the largest network of Jewish preschools and day and resident camps in North America. “We are proud that our programs are helping to address this critical issue,” said Steven Becker, JCC Association’s vice-president of health and wellness services. “Caring for our bodies is a Jewish value, and the JCC Movement has been dedicated to improving the well-being of the community since its founding.”
Trust for America’s Health is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization dedicated to saving lives by protecting the health of every community and working to make disease prevention a national priority. It is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Discover: CATCH is based on the CATCH (Coordinated Approach to Child Health) program developed at the University of Texas more than twenty years ago. JCC Association’s early childhood education and family engagement department adapted the curriculum to the JCC preschool, adding Jewish values and healthy Jewish foods, and a strong family-education component. “We want our parents to be deeply involved,” said Mark Horowitz, JCC Association vice-president for ECE and family engagement. “They are making critical decisions in their children’s lives, and we know they want to make well-informed ones that will keep their children healthy.”
Obesity is a major health challenge in the U.S. In 2010, 17 percent of American teens were obese. According to the report, “Nearly one-third of children and teens are currently obese or overweight, which is putting them at higher risks for developing a range of diseases and developing them earlier in life.” It is estimated that this youthful generation may be the first in American history to live shorter, less healthy lives than their parents.