Breaking Through to Children in Minneapolis with Break Dancing… and More!

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Posted May 12, 2011

Although he was no break dancer, the musician formerly known as Prince would probably approve of the way Neighborhood HealthSource (a We Can!® community site since October 2009 and a 2011 Assistance Program award recipient) is breaking down the importance of exercise and spending less time in front of the screen for children in his hometown of Minneapolis, MN.

A weekly break-dancing class, taught by professional break dancers, is the most popular of the site’s We Can!-oriented programs for children. 

“The kids enjoy the classes, and the instructors are good role models,” said Melanie Richie, community health coordinator and We Can! site leader at Neighborhood HealthSource.  “The kids relate to them.”

“Relating” to the instructors helps attendees absorb more than just the We Can! messages about moving more and spending less time in front of the screen.  It makes them more open to learning how to eat right, a topic that’s covered while they’re munching on a healthy snack during a break.

Knowing that children model their eating habits on their parents and caregivers—not just outside sources, such as break-dance instructors—Richie decided to offer the We Can! Parent Program, too.  She incorporated it into an existing exercise class, and then turned to a partner to help her bump it up a notch.

“Thanks to a community partnership with the University of Minnesota, eight families are enrolled in Cooking Matters™, a program that empowers families with the skills, knowledge, and confidence to prepare healthy, tasty and affordable meals,” said Richie.  “It’s the first time we partnered with them, and the feedback is great! Parents increased how often they cooked.  It is amazing to see habits change after only 6 weeks.”

And learning about the media is on the menu, too.  Since Neighborhood HealthSource provides afterschool programming to elementary and middle-school students, We Can!’s Media-Smart Youth: Eat, Smart, and Be Active® was a good fit.  It’s also become a big hit, thanks to the help of a local television network affiliate that assists in the filming and later airs the program’s final project—a public service announcement.

Over the past two years, the site has reached some 500 people through We Can! programming and hopes to reach even more as a result of its 2011 Assistance Program award.

“The funding has allowed us to offer more programming for kids; to provide more incentives to participate; and to purchase new materials,” said Richie.  “Our organization realizes the importance of obesity prevention in our community, and the kids keep coming back for more.” 

With its wide variety of We Can!-based programs, Neighborhood HealthSource is on the path to creating healthy lifestyle habits that they hope people won’t want to break.

Last Updated: February 13, 2013