As child obesity rates climb nationwide, the Capital Area Health Alliance tried to nip the problem in the bud Friday, hosting its annual Choosing Health!® Rally at the Gier Community Center.
"We have some obesity problems in our community," said Valerie Glesnes-Anderson, executive director of the Capital Area Health Alliance. "What we're doing now is we're working with schools and other organizations to try to find ways to bring healthier diets and options to the children."
Kids could play in a bounce house and a batting cage or try their hand at karate or a rock wall. Local restaurants and vendors passed out small portions of their healthy entrees and appetizers.
"It's a fabulous entrance into the world of eating healthier," said Glesnes-Anderson.
Nearly one in three children in Michigan, ages 10-17, are overweight or obese, according to the state. That could result in increased medical costs, higher rates of chronic diseases and a shorter life expectancy.
Lansing resident John Jester brought his family Friday night, trying to plant a seed in the minds of his children that he hopes will grow into a healthy lifestyle.
"I think without proper nutrition and without healthy activity, we're all treading water," said Jester. "None of us are going to be as healthy and as good of a life as we possibly can."
The warmer weather helped bring Potterville resident Loren Smalley Jr. and his family to the rally, knowing that summer festival season -- full of opportunities to walk -- is fast approaching.
"Right now we're going through the importance of learning how to be healthy -- weight control and portion control and also watching our calories," he said. "We're doing the right thing by going through and learning how to be healthy and trying to teach them at a young age the same thing."
CAHA tried to emphasize simple things, like walking and drinking water, as easy ways to create a healthier lifestyle -- something 13-year-old Jason Cifran said isn't an easy thing to do.
"I think it is harder to be more healthy nowadays because there's more fast foods and more to take you away from healthiness," he said after climbing the rock wall. "I usually try to help my friends and people in my community to exercise and play games outside with me.
Parents called Lansing an easy community to be active in, and CAHA agrees.
Said Glesnes-Anderson: "Because of the resources that we have and because of the marvelous parks and trail systems, there are great opportunities for people to live healthy lifestyles."