the skinny on obesity – Kraft

Kraft Canada

Kraft Canada

Boys and Girls Clubs

Inspiration

‘It was just about perfect timing,’ says Eric Burton, director, national program services, Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada, of the not-for-profit’s discussions with Kraft Canada that eventually led to the launch of Cool Moves.

Perfect, because obesity and inactivity had been flagged by the non-profit’s execs across the country as the most critical issues facing its kids. ‘We were asking] ‘What should we be doing to jumpstart things?” he says. Likewise, at the country’s food manufacturing monolith, they were having similar conversations. Says Don Blair, Kraft’s senior manager, corporate affairs: ‘[Cool Moves] came about in response to [Kraft's] growing concern about the declining state of physical fitness among youth.’

Execution

Kraft and the Boys and Girls Clubs, along with a number of registered dietitians, physical activity experts and a member of Concerned Children’s Advertisers, designed and created a program director’s guide for the health and fitness program, which launched last March. The CPG donated $300,000 over three years to fund the program, even creating and testing some of the recipes in its Kraft Kitchens, but the running of the program is left to the experts at the clubs, says Blair.

The program has two elements: Eat Smart, which encourages kids to make healthier eating choices; and Play Cool, which encourages physical activity. ‘Many of our kids can’t afford swimming or dance classes, so they were really at a point of being in crisis,’ says Burton. There was a deliberate decision to make most of the activities non-competitive, he says. This was based on the insight that some kids were embarrassed that they did not have the skills to do as well in sports as others – so they avoided physical activity altogether.

As well, smart eating and shopping tips are embedded in the general Boys and Girls Clubs’ curriculum like its cooking and after-school homework programs. For example, youth can create grocery lists at the clubs then use them when shopping with parents.

A final component of the program is reward: Kids record their progress in a journal for every day of the week, even if it’s simply ‘ate an apple,’ says Burton. They are incented with participation rewards each week and their achievement is posted on a board in the club.

Marketing efforts

There was a press release, but there was no real marketing push, says Blair. ‘It’s not a marketing program, it’s a charitable program. We think those are very different things.’

Results

With 104 clubs across the country and 175,000 kids, Burton says that the initial goal was to have 65,000 kids sign up for the program. And even that was ambitious, he recalls. To date, over 80,000 kids are participating. ‘It shocked us,’ he says. He says its popularity is likely due to the fact that the teaching is not overt or a stand-alone program, but is woven into each club’s existing activities. ‘It’s been successful because it’s under the radar,’ he says.

And beyond the numbers, Burton says he’s heard anecdotally that some kids are feeling better about themselves and that parents are thankful that positive messages about nutrition and physical activity are being reinforced.