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West End Change Club working to make healthy changes in community

  • LINDA KOEHLER/TIMES NEWS Members of the West End Change Club came out in support for its first community event. They are, left to right: Judith Nansteel, Judith Leiding, Gale Kresge, Bette Stout, Carmela Heard, Diane Giffels, Donnie Grammes,…
    LINDA KOEHLER/TIMES NEWS Members of the West End Change Club came out in support for its first community event. They are, left to right: Judith Nansteel, Judith Leiding, Gale Kresge, Bette Stout, Carmela Heard, Diane Giffels, Donnie Grammes, Gabriele Strahle, Barbe Sieg, Carol Kern, Dawn Olson and Lisa Eick.
Published August 17. 2012 05:02PM

You've just been diagnosed with high cholesterol, or high blood pressure.

Perhaps diabetes runs in your family and you want to do everything you can to prevent becoming diabetic.

The scale tells you that you've gained another five pounds.

Is it hard to know what to eat out in restaurants?

You know you have to become more conscious of what you eat for better health, but when you pick up an item and you see "partially-hydrogenated" on the label do you know what that means? And do you wonder how to use the percentage Daily Value on a food label or do you go, "Huh?"

If you notice a word that ends in "ose," did you know there was sugar in it?

Sugar is found in a wide variety of foods ranging from fruits, milk products, soft drinks, desserts, breads and cereals.

A daily limit of sugar should be no more than 12 teaspoons. Women should restrict their intake of 5 tsp., men-9 tsp. and children-3 tsp. On an average, we eat 22 tsp. or more a day and most is processed simple sugars. That's 600 calories or almost a half of cup a day.

Did you know that there are 27 grams of sugar in an 8 oz. glass of lemonade which equals about seven teaspoons of sugar?

And how do you get better nutrition for those valuable food dollars you spend?

In today's world, you have be a better informed consumer.

That's where the newly formed West End Community Change Club (WECCC) comes in. It is an outreach of Penn State's StrongWomen program. They want to help foster an environment where the healthy choice is the easy choice.

The WECCC was born when Dr. Miriam Nelson, an internationally renowned research scientist, author and founder of the StrongWomen program, spent three days in November in the West End with a group of 21 local StrongWomen participants and community leaders. Dr. Nelson selected the Pennsylvania group to be one of the only eight locations she visited in her eight state Change Club tour across the country. The group was thrilled to be selected for this honor out of the 34 StrongWomen groups in the 67 counties that have Extension StrongWomen groups.

"We were delighted when our Brodheadsville StrongWomen group was selected as one of the eight national sites," says Dawn Olson, Extension Educator, Penn State Extension and coordiantor of the Monroe County StrongWomen program.

The visit from Dr. Nelson really energized the group to reach out and help educate the community in which they live.

WECCC has been meeting monthly at the Western Pocono Community Library. They identified several key projects for the West End in the upcoming months such as: Restaurant Healthy Options, Connecting with Grocery Stores, Educational Workshops/Activities and Public Events and grants to support local projects.

WECCC held its first community event, "Healthier Picks at the Grocery Store or Restaurant" on March 20 at Pleasant Valley High School. Over 120 people attended.

Marlene Nash, MS, RD was the guest speaker. She has a very impressive resume of 30 years of varied dietetics experience which includes food service management with emphasis on food safety and sanitation, direct patient care at acute and long-term health facilities, private nutrition counseling and community nutrition/health education programs.

Olson said the turnout was "Beyond our expectations. The Change Club members have made a commitment to change themselves and to help make changes in our community by improving nutrition and physical activity. This was our first public event, and it was exciting to see the group pull together to help plan, promote and carry out this event."

During part of the workshop, Change Club members were with small group leaders helping to review restaurant menu choices when eating out, evaluating the calorie and fat content of choices.

"I'm excited about the Change Club's Resturant Project where we are working with local restaurants in the West End to offer a couple of healthy menu options for three months. The goal of the restaurant initiative is to support healthy options within the community by working with local restaurants, especially restaurants frequented by families to increase the availability of healthful alternatives and smaller portions of foods. We are encouraging restaurants to substitute vegetables or fruits for fries in both adult and children's meals, to offer more whole wheat options, lower fat dressings and dairy, smaller portions, less fried and more baked or broiled options. Participating restaurants will be displaying the WECCC symbol, identifying their healthy menu options, and offering a coupon for selecting the pre-chosen healthy choice," says Olson.

Today people eat out a lot more often than they did twenty years ago. In 2012, households spent almost half of their food budgets on foods prepared outside of the home. On a typical day, nearly a third of children consume fast food. Children who regularly eat fast food consume more calories, fat, and added sugar and less fiber, milk, fruits, and non-starchy vegetables than children who do not eat fast food on a regular basis. Studies show that children eat almost twice as many calories when they eat a meal at a restaurant. Today 1/3 of the U.S. population aged 6-11 are overweight or at high risk for becoming overweight and as a result face serious potential consequences to their long-term health and quality of life.

The Change Club wants to help the local community by encouraging local restaurants to make some changes. But, it's important that adults and parents support restaurants making these changes and order other options besides fries as the vegetable, and chicken fingers for kids.

"We applaud restaurants who are volunteering to work with us on this project," says Olson.

After the presentation, guests walked around and visited several exhibit tables that featured information on sugar, sodium, fiber and of Pleasant Valley Food Services and Wellness Policy, Feeding Your Children, the Change Club, Western Pocono Community Library, Pocono Medical Center, Penn State Extension and information about the Restaurant Project.

Currently the WECCC members are: Doug Arnold, Linda Barney, Timme Broad, Lisa Eick, Diane Giffels, Chuck Gould, Dave Albright, Bonnie Grammes, Carmela Heard, Carol Kern, Bernie Kozen, Gale Kresge, Laura Kresge, Judith Leiding, Judy Nansteel, Dawn Olson, Peggy Pugh, Barbe Sieg, Margie Smith, Bette Stout and Gabriele Strahle.

Olson believes that through the program, women will choose to make better health choices and changes for themselves and their families by getting better nutrition for the food dollars they spend, at the grocery store or when eating out.

If you would like to learn more, visit for guidance on how to understand and use the Nutrition Facts Panel on food labels.

To learn more about WECCC, please contact (570) 421-6430 or visit and click on the video at the end of the article.

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