Fit, Fed, and Fun for Life

This terrific program encouraged campers to get outdoors for more active recreation and make the right choices to eat more healthfully during camp and after camp ended.

“Even in its first year, the program was clearly a hit,” says Volunteers of America’s Patricia Murtagh, vice president of external relations. “We revised recipes to offer healthier cereals and more fruits and vegetables at mealtimes, where possible. We also worked to keep the campers more active and to introduce new activities.” In addition to the camp’s existing low ropes course, climbing wall, and other land activities, a local zumba instructor led aerobic fitness classes and the camp’s new land-sports director launched more high-energy games, including ga-ga (a form of dodgeball).

“In pre- and post-testing over the week of the camp,” explains Murtagh, “we learned that the program (and, I believe the camp experience in general) had a significant effect on the campers’ willingness to try new foods, to enjoy outdoor activities more, and to feel it was important to be healthy in life.” She adds that she did the rounds of the dining hall tables at mealtimes and saw that large numbers of campers were in fact trying new foods. “It was terrific! The counselors did a great job, too, of supporting the effort.”

June Koegel, president of CEO for Volunteers of America, says, “The success of Fit, Fed, and Fun for Life has inspired us to explore how it might be feasible — and beneficial — to promote more healthful diet and lifestyles in our other programs as well, including the work we do for veterans, senior citizens, and others.” 

“According to researchers, more than 28 percent of Maine children (especially children from disadvantaged backgrounds) were obese or overweight in 2007 — more than twice as many as in 2003,” says Koegel. “That’s a very dramatic rise, with no end in sight.” Indeed when the BMI (body–mass index, a measure of body fat) of the campers was measured, 24 percent were found to be obese and 47 percent were overweight.

Nationally, studies show that some 13 million U.S. children and adolescents are obese, with a BMI at or above the 95th percentile. Obesity is a major risk factor for many serious health conditions, including type 2 diabetes, stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure, and certain cancers. Obese adolescents have an 80 percent chance of becoming obese adults.

“These kids were perfectly willing to try new things and to learn,” adds Murtagh. “What they need is more adult guidance and education about healthly lifestyles. A good place to start is, a new website based on the new U.S. government food guide that has replaced the old food ‘pyramid.’ Kids — and their parents — should study it together.”

Since camp ended, Volunteers of America has been developing an interactive follow-up website to help campers, their parents, and counselors stay in touch, trade recipes, exchange health ideas, and keep the momentum going.

How can you help? Here are some suggestions:
Volunteer to staff camp next year. Camp POSTCARD serves at-risk 5th- and 6th-graders from across Maine, and spending time with them is one of life’s great experiences.
Donate healthy foods. All camp food is donated, thanks to the generosity of organizations and private individuals.
Sponsor a camper. Thanks to community support, camp is free for all campers. It costs only $350 to sponsor a camper.
Help support Volunteers of America’s Camp POSTARD and Fit, Fed, and Fun for Life by making a financial or in-kind donations.

To learn more, send us an email or call 207-373-1140. Camp POSTCARD (“Police Officers Striving to Create and Reinforce Dreams”) is made by possible through a partnership with the Maine Sherriff’s Association, Maine DARE Officer’s Association, and Maine Chiefs of Police Association — as well as the more than 60 law enforcement officers, social workers, and public safety officers who donate their time as volunteer camp leaders. - See more at: