ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – Arnot Health and Excellus BlueCross BlueShield announced a community program to combat childhood obesity.

An $8500 grant was given to the Mindful Eating, Active Lifestyle (MEAL) program from Excellus.

MEAL aims to teach families about healthy eating and how to live a more active lifestyle. According to Tina Burt, Executive Director of outpatient quality at Arnot Health, “Children are sponges, and if we instill healthy habits early, they more likely they are to hold on to them later in life.”

The program will be presented in the Birth to Five head start classrooms at Elmira’s Economic Opportunity Program (EOP).

“We have a collaboration. It’s a collaborative approach. We’re working with Arnot Health, our community’s health system. We’re working with the children in the Headstart, working in partnership, and being supported by generous support from Excellus BlueCross BlueShield,” said Andrea Ogunwumi, CEO of the Economic Opportunity Program.

She added, “So this is a collaborative effort of multiple stakeholders. We all have skin in the game; we all have a reason to see this progress forward favorably, as we do not just talk about the social determinants of how we make an impact on making progress.”

According to Arnot, the plan is to focus the program on geographic areas with the highest poverty rate in Chemung County. In this area, 30% of families live below the poverty line, and the children in these families risk food insecurity and a lack of knowledge, tools, and resources to make healthy lifestyle choices.

The program will start in the Spring of 2023. For more information, click here