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What kids can do for fitness and nutrition in their neighborhoods

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Here's how your child can improve nutrition and fitness in communities and use the information learned in school projects or for summer camp possibilities. First, your child begins by pitching his or her ideas on how to combat obesity in various neighborhoods, either your community, or a community in need in your city or state. Even prisoners are being taught how to start high-tech incubator businesses or brainstorming how to turn abandoned buildings into fitness centers.

You may wish to check out the December 27, 2013 L.A. Times article by Jessica Guynn, "Inmates go from lock-up to start-ups." If prisoners can brainstorm how to start fitness and nutrition businesses or community produce gardens, children and their families also can brainstorm how to use what's available or abandoned to improve nutrition, fitness, and health in their communities or elsewhere.

Next, the child researches information online or in books, newspapers, and magazines and talks to a group of people, whether it's in a library, in the kid's class, or in the community on how to combat obesity in low-income areas by turning empty lots into community gardens. That way people can grow their own food. See, "British kids build greenhouse out of plastic bottles | Grist," or "School Children Make Greenhouse Out Of Recycled Plastic Bottles."

Many neighborhoods lack supermarkets or food markets where they can find or even afford organic produce (fruits and vegetables) or other healthy foods. The foods available usually are processed, packaged, and often made from white flour, sugar, fats, and processed meats or cold cuts, such as hot dogs, sometimes seasoned with monosodium glutamate (MSG) and other additives and artificial colors or flavors, or high in salt. Kids end up getting too many chips, cookies, candy, pretzels, or greasy fast foods loaded with salt, fat, sugar, or artificial coloring and excess amounts of fructose.

Show kids how aquaponics works

During the winter months in school, kids can learn how to build their own greenhouses out of plastic bottles. See, "New York School Kids Build Their Own Greenhouse." Teach kids aquaponics in environmental science class at almost any age level. Aquaponics is about

A few years ago, one school in New York State managed to secure a $25,000 grant that enabled the teacher and his students to build a greenhouse dome, in which to grow vegetables using both soil and aquaponics. The greenhouse is an energy-efficient dome that runs completely on solar power. Vegetables grow in soil on the lower level of the dome, and a second level installed is used to grow lettuce using aquaponics, according to the May 10, 2011 TreeHugger site article by Rachel Cernansky, "New York School Kids Build Their Own Greenhouse."

Community gardens in summer, greenhouses in winter

Children can make a difference in the area of nutrition and fitness by speaking, writing, or video recording efforts to show how or if people were able to have low-cost access to organic produce all year 'round, such as from a green house built on empty lots, it would be like a farmer's market coming to the area, but with food available for the picking. In the summer, the community could work together, including the kids to plant food on these empty lots, including on church or school grounds not being used for parking spaces. In the winter, the greenhouses built by the community would allow growing more produce in the coldest months.

The idea is to turn empty lots and lawns not being used for 'show' into places where people could grow food in areas where the people wouldn't otherwise be able to afford to buy the food. Some cities have entire neighborhoods where there aren't any supermarkets, only convenience stores or liquor stores in areas where kids walk daily.

Crowdsourcing and fundraising to turn abandoned buildings into fitness centers in low-income areas

At the same time, your children might participate in crowdsourcing and fundraising efforts to talk to business people and owners of abandoned buildings to turn those abandoned buildings into fitness facilities. With fitness facilities and community gardens and greenhouses (even if they're on apartment complex laws or roofs, if the roof is strong enough to support a greenhouse, as determined by appointed, credentialed and licensed inspectors) there's a chance your kids can make a difference.

Besides fitness centers where kids of all ages and teenagers could work out for fitness, there could be videos, talks, and programs on nutrition, healthier food choices for parents, kids, and entire families, including volunteer speakers or internships for students. The children might focus either on how to turn abandoned buildings into fitness facilities. Or have a focus on growing food all-year-round on empty lots or school and church lawns, including building greenhouses for winter growing. Technology-oriented kids might emphasize designing apps for mobile devices or computers that would help people track their fitness progress.

Even some abandoned schools are being turned into fitness centers along with other facilities in the building. See, "$50M project will convert abandoned Detroit building into housing for homeless." Once complete, the 255,000-square-foot building will offer addiction treatment; mental-health counseling and case management services; life skills training; a library; computer, art and music rooms; a gym and fitness center; chapel; laundry; walk-out roof gardens; and a small sundry shop.

In the article, "Abandoned School Buildings in Rural Illinois and Their Conversions," housing developers are beginning to see opportunity in the shuttered schools cast off by the dozens in cities such as Philadelphia, Detroit and Chicago. These buildings, closed because of population decline and charter school competition, are gaining new life as apartments, senior housing and lofts. What else can these buildings house that can help entire families of all age groups from preschool to senior center generation choose healthier lifestyles, food choices, and fitness programs, including libraries or places where people can access information, technology, or even grow their own food for all seasons? All these topics are ways in which kids can get involved in making healthier choices.

Solving problems in the community: Practice kids can find from farming and fitness to designing computer apps

These types of efforts direct and guide kids into solving problems on how to make the world a kinder, gentler place through nutrition and fitness efforts. The process also could embrace the technology-driven children and teenagers, even high school, tech school, and college students into developing apps for tracking fitness, community garden efforts, or nutrition-related efforts, including getting organic produce to low-income areas that usually are not able to afford the prices of organic vegetables and fruits in supermarkets and natural food stores, such as families who go to food banks for free food or seniors who are food insecure.

The entire effort can focus on motivating children to make wiser choices about food and fitness efforts. Start by talking with your child to find out how the kid will approach the food for fitness effort. Is your child a person of action? Is he or she practical? Does your child think of himself/herself as a realist?

Where do your children fit into or focus on efforts towards fitness, finer food, and fervor?

Fitness and healthier food choices are about foresight, insight, and hindsight about lifestyle and information, including data and research so new the media hasn't yet seen it.

Is your child a sociable kid who enjoys fundraising and crowdsourcing to raise money, for example to have someone buy abandoned buildings to turn them into fitness centers in low-income areas? On the other hand, is your child a thinker? Into technology and designing apps? Perhaps the child who designs apps and is a thinker can design apps on tracking fitness especially for children interested in nutrition. Those who enjoy writing can focus on nutrition journalism or consumer science reporting and research.

Other children may be idealists or dreamers. The shy child who focuses on dreams and idealism can observe and write about or produce video documentaries on what people are doing in local areas to grow their own food or restore abandoned buildings as fitness centers, start community gardens, or build greenhouses for growing organic produce all year 'round to feed families, seniors, or individuals in need of food, fitness, and familiarity with healthier eating choices that are affordable, available, and accessible. Check out the sites, "Novel Uses For Abandoned Infrastructure « Building Resilient Regions" and "Images for turning abandoned buildings into fitness centers."

Kids can come up with ideas to serve older adults by the growing number of big-box and mall re-inhabitations that increase access to healthcare and medical services. For example, a former grocery store in Savannah, Georgia, was re-inhabited by a women’s medical center, even making use of the high voltage from the freezer section to power MRI machines.

Fitness and wellness centers can be opened in former retail buildings

For families, even children and teenagers interested in entrepreneurism, it's one more way to talk about starting a business. Is your teenager or college-age kid thinking of opening a small business turning abandoned buildings into other services or writing grants to raise the money to do that or perhaps sell abandoned buildings to people who turn the buildings into other types of centers?

Kids can think and list of how many ways that come to mind to turn abandoned school buildings into other uses or business that best help a neighborhood to be healthier? Then that list can be sent to people, including public speakers, educators, business executives, and writers, with the authority, resources, ideas, or fundraising ability to accomplish such a goal.

You have small, “minute –clinics” popping up in shopping centers around the country. For example, the entire second floor of the Hundred Oaks Mall in Nashville, Tennessee, has been re-inhabited by the University of Vanderbilt’s [sic] Medical Center. You also may wish to check out the article, "Detroit's abandoned buildings draw tourists instead of developers."

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