Hoping to have a healthy summer

Covington is going to be a little bit healthier this summer.

Covington is going to be a little bit healthier this summer.

A broad-spectrum partnership spurred by the Coalition for a Healthy Community has developed an opportunity for local students, dubbed the Cruzin’ Covington Passport program, to get children in the city to eat healthy, play hard and learn more.

The coalition has teamed up with the city of Covington as well as with sponsors MultiCare and Valley Medical Center and in the past month have recruited the help of dozens of businesses.

Pam Kramer, a nutritionist with MultiCare who is a member of the coalition, said the project has gotten off to a great start.

“Our whole goal is to get our kids to be healthier. But the other thing that’s happening is that the community is really embracing it and becoming a part of it,” Kramer said. “They understand that there’s a problem with the current state of health in our nation, and they’re willing to help. It’s encouraging because you never know what you might get, and the response has been wonderful.”

Nearly 5,000 students will get the “passports” with the program starting June 23 and ending Aug. 31.

For every healthy choice they make, kids will get a stamp in the passport, and every youngster who turns in a passport at the end of the summer gets a Cruzin’ Covington drawstring backpack as entered into drawings for other prizes.

The passports will also feature events and activities during the summer months, as well as a list of participating destinations where kids will have a chance to be healthier, explained Pat Patterson, recreation and aquatics manager for Covington. Patterson is responsible for the city’s role in the partnership and administration of the program.

“This is a project to encourage healthy dining choices, fitness and education through the summer,” Patterson said. “The key is to get kids making better choices, getting outside, exercising. And this allows them to discover the city.”

Patterson said the city had some money budgeted for non-athletic recreation programs and community events. Cruzin’ Covington seemed like a good way to spend some of that money, he reasoned.

“All of those folks that are working in the medical field are busy doing their jobs,” Patterson said. “We said we’d do the work getting the information out and administering the (program’s) registration.”

Kramer said Cruzin’ is another step to get the entire community involved in helping kids learn healthy habits early in life.

This school year, one piece of the puzzle was a pilot program at Covington Elementary School that was funded by a grant from the MultiCare Health Foundation. Many of the lessons students there picked up about food and fitness — like how much sugar is in soda and chocolate milk or how many cookies are in a serving — will be available as part of the passport program this summer.

“For the other schools in Covington, it’s the perfect way to plant the seed through eating healthy at certain locations,” Kramer said. “Through playing hard, they’ll be encouraged to exercise or learn more about exercise, and many of our businesses have chosen to be a learn location. They’ll have nutrition or fitness or healthy-living brochures available.”

Kramer said the fun and kid-friendly information will be available at more than 30 businesses in Covington throughout the summer months, with nearly 60 businesses participating in total.

“We’re just trying to do anything we can to convey that message that health is a really good thing to be healthy, to be active,” Kramer said. “The real message is to eat smart, play hard and learn. That’s what’s on the front of each passport.”

Staff writer Kris Hill can be reached at (425) 432-1209 (extension 5054) and khill@reporternewspapers.com