Program urges folks to get up, get out

Published 9:17 pm Friday, January 17, 2014

Suffolk residents are encouraged to “Get Up and Get Out” in the newest session of a program conducted by Suffolk Parks and Recreation.

The six-week program, funded by a grant from the Obici Healthcare Foundation, teaches children age 6 and up and their families about how to make healthier nutrition and activity choices. Benefits of the free program include meal planning sessions, cooking demonstrations, meetings with a registered dietitian, physical activity and more. Graduates will get a free membership to the East Suffolk Recreation Center.

“It’s a very family-oriented program,” said Mike Frickanisce, who works in Parks and Recreation. “It will teach children how to make healthy food choices and how to include physical activity into their lifestyle.”

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The program meets three days a week. One day is spent with the registered dietitian and the other two days with a fitness assistant.

“We go over basic nutrition principles, meals and meal planning,” Frickanisce said. “We actually take them to Farm Fresh with gift cards and they purchase groceries and set up a meal based on what they’ve learned.”

There also will be cooking demonstrations to teach people how to prepare their favorite foods in a healthier manner, Frickanisce said.

“The other two days of the week, they gradually work on different ways to get their body moving,” he said.

The program has been going on for about 18 months, and roughly 200 participants have graduated so far. The original grant was extended once and was recently renewed.

“Our goal is really to try to target certain behaviors,” he said. Participants fill out surveys at the beginning and end of the program to measure how they’ve improved on behaviors such as physical activity, watching television and drinking sugar-sweetened beverages.

“We try to look for changes in those behaviors,” Frickanisce said. “We have noticed changes. We’re giving them tools they can use, and their children can use, throughout their life to make better choices.”

Frickanisce urged people to take advantage of the program’s benefits.

“It’s not often you get the chance to speak weekly with a registered dietitian,” he said. “That kind of stuff rarely comes free.”

The program begins Feb. 3 and runs through March 14. The classes meet from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Mondays and 5 to 6 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Register by calling 514-4504.