Sport Waikato’s highly successful Under 5 Energize programme - funded by the Ministry of Health - where Sport Waikato staff work with early childhood centres to improve healthy eating and increase physical activity, is now being offered in Northland.
Currently 34 Northland early childhood education centres, kindergartens, Kōhanga and Punanga are signed up to the programme which launched in the region last year.
Funded by Northland DHB, the initiative involves Sport Waikato training staff from Māori health providers - Te Hiku Hauora and Ngāti Hine Health Trust - to deliver the programme within the centres.
The Northland Under 5 Energizer then meet with each centre to develop a customised plan to embrace a healthy eating philosophy and physical activity strategy that meets the needs of their children and the wider community.
Sport Waikato’s manager for the project, Madeleine Kirk, says the idea is that these positive messages are shared right across the community.
“Plans are developed to improve healthy eating and physical activity within the centres, but promoting this mindset out to families and caregivers is just as important. That’s why centre initiatives are always designed to include the wider community,” she says.
Tracey, one of the kaimahi at Awhi Pumau in Kaitaia, says being involved in the programme is giving the centre a lot to think about.
“It’s so great to be continually filling our kete of knowledge,” she says.
Funding for the programme has been set aside for up to 50 centres, and the goals is to reach this number by June 2019
Sport Waikato’s Under 5 Energize programme has been running in the Waikato for around five years. Since then, more than 10,000 children from 126 early childhood centres across the Waikato have taken part.
“It’s fantastic to see a programme that has been so successful within the Waikato expanded into another region. Eventually, we’d love to see this offered in other regions across New Zealand,” says Madeleine.
The Under 5 Energize programme was based on Sport Waikato’s Project Energize which teaches primary and intermediate school students about nutrition and a healthy lifestyle. Project Energize has been running since 2005 and includes 240 schools. It expanded into Northland in 2012 and Capital Coast in 2016.