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bikingArea businesses help youth build a foundation for a better future

Here is a glance of local area businesses that are laying the foundation to create a culture of wellness in the Fredericksburg area.

The Doctor Yum Project: Cultivating Healthier Eating

Dr. Nimali Fernando, or "Doctor Yum" as she is affectionately known in the community, realized how a better diet could help kids achieve overall health.

"In fact, so many of the complaints I saw in my office could be traced back to a poor diet," said the Fredericksburg-area pediatrician. "I thought that a hands-on approach to showing families how to feed their kids better would be more effective than counseling in a 15 minute office visit."

Fernando created a recipe site (now doctoryum.org) and then began offering cooking classes for kids using local, seasonal produce and plant-based recipes.

From there, she went on to implementing a preschool nutrition program, now offered at 16 schools in central Virginia. This program teaches children basic nutrition concepts and cooking skills to prepare simple, whole food snacks in the classroom.

"The kids not only enjoy it but the data that we have gathered so far shows that it is changing the way those kids are eating at home, too," Fernando said. "Some of the teachers report to us that they are seeing a huge improvement in the willingness to try new foods and the quality of the foods that they are packing and bringing to school for snacks."

Fernando hopes that establishing healthy habits at a young age will carry over to healthy eating habits as an adult.

"Kids are impressionable and with the right approach healthy habits can be established early. A lifetime of great eating habits helps give kids the best chance for a long, healthy, and productive life."


Minnieland Academy: Teaching Benevolence

"It has always been our goal at Minnieland to be leaders and support our local community," said Crystal Varner, district director of Minnieland Academy.

Minnieland Academy is encouraging students to fill bags to help replenish their local food banks.

"In the month of January, we, as a company, donated 5,700 pounds of food. Those donations included contributions to FeedMore in Richmond and The Fredericksburg Food Bank in Fredericksburg," Varner said.
The Fredericksburg and Richmond centers will also sponsor a Minnieland Day when Minnieland employees will offer their time to aid the food banks.

Varner noted that children are like sponges and stressed the importance of developing good habits early on.

"The healthy habits that children learn will follow them throughout their lives and hopefully decrease unhealthy habits as they grow."


Smart Beginnings: Curbing Childhood Obesity

Smart Beginnings Rappahannock Area's mission is to lead community partners in maximizing and coordinating resources that ensure equal opportunities for all young children, birth to 5, to be ready for school and ready for life. Smart Beginnings is funded through donations, as well as through grants from the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation.

According the website, VECF has been selected for second year funding from Nemours/CDC to continue Virginia's "Taking Steps to Healthy Success" child obesity prevention project, with the Fredericksburg Region being a targeted focus area.

"Smart Beginnings will be working with VECF to recruit 12-13 centers to participate in the initiative," stated Sara Branner, executive director of Smart Beginnings Rappahannock Area.

Kerry Pinto is a freelance writer living in Stafford.

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