Obesity rates among children and adolescents have tripled since 1980 with alarming consequences — from long-term health to social and psychological distress. Families experiencing homelessness have been disproportionately affected as the national obesity and food insecurity crisis continues to worsen.
In response, CHOP's Homeless Health Initiative (HHI) created Operation CHOICES, a program that has reached hundreds of families in shelters through nutrition and fitness opportunities. HHI has had great success in developing this evidence-based program which is uniquely tailored to the shelter environment.
When Operation CHOICES began in 2009, our six volunteers served one shelter and held nine sessions that reached 72 participants. Currently we operate in three West Philadelphia shelters and serve hundreds of participants each year.
Operation CHOICES is transforming shelter practices, showing them how to serve healthier food options in a culturally sensitive way and shaping the city’s food distribution to maximize fresh produce and healthy menu selections. As leaders on the forefront of this crisis, HHI has presented this model at national conferences in efforts to share effective strategies for empowering families in impoverished communities to find ways to make healthier choices around nutrition and physical activity.
Safe Physical Activity & Recreation for Kids (SPARK)
SPARK was developed in collaboration with the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) Fellowship Program at CHOP.
Designed to model healthy activities and cooperative play, this program provides weekly sessions for children to be active and learn about healthy choices through fun activities.
Women's Wellness is provided weekly to mothers living in shelters. This hour-long session combines wellness, self-care, career development and health education.
Through hands-on learning, mothers are empowered to make healthy choices for themselves and their families in their current environments as well as to plan for the future when they are in their own homes.
To further our efforts to improve nutrition, physical activity, and food access for families living in shelters, HHI works to share its experiences with other organizations, city officials and community agencies at local and national conferences.
HHI also plans to expand collaborations with community groups to increase healthy, fresh food access for families in West Philadelphia. HHI will offer guidance and support to other agencies interested in replicating Operation CHOICES programming and advocacy.
Reviewed by: Karen Hudson, PhD, MSW, LSW
Date: March 2019