Seagull’s Children Get A Healthy Start

Hawaii’s Seagull Schools proved to the entire nation last month that it’s still fit and healthy after 40 years.

The nonprofit child care center is one of only 18 (out of 6,000 applicants) across the country to be honored in Washington, D.C., by first lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move program for outstanding efforts to prevent obesity and help children get off to a healthy start in life.

Seagull Schools

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Preschoolers enjoy a healthy meal together at Seagull Schools’ one-year-old Ko Olina facility. The childcare center’s central kitchen feeds about 1,000 keiki at six sites on Oahu, including Ewa Beach, Kapolei and Ko Olina. Seagull Schools recently was honored by Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move program for its efforts to prevent childhood obesity. See more photos on Page 4. Photo from Chuck Larson.

“We are pretty proud of this award because we have made a great deal of effort to make our schools healthy places for children,” said Chuck Larson, founder and executive director of Seagull, which cares for nearly 1,000 young keiki at six sites on Oahu, including Ewa Beach (at Ocean Pointe), Kapolei (two sites) and Ko Olina.

Director of operations Jayne Arasaki made the all-expense-paid trip to D.C. to accept a recognition letter from Obama at a Let’s Move Child Care luncheon May 9 at the Omni Shoreham Hotel. Seagull Schools was the only Hawaii agency cited.

“We keep getting better,” Larson said. “We have photovoltaic panels, pay attention to diet and environment. We’ve got a central kitchen that serves vegetarian lunches once a week. There’s a stimulating playground, but no TV, no candy and no air conditioning – just a healthy lifestyle.”

The kitchen also serves brown rice, whole wheat bread and fresh fruits and vegetables. Meals come to the tables family style so children can make choices and serve themselves.

Larson noted that Seagull centers have “ample green space allowing for running, climbing and exploring stimulating environments.” Nor are adults forgotten. The agency won a “Best Place to Work” award for 2011 from Hawaii Business magazine and has been recognized by the Hawaii Psychological Association as a “Psychologically Healthy Workplace.”

The Let’s Move Child Care State Challenge is part of Obama’s initiative to combat childhood obesity via five main goals: daily physical activity; limited “screen” time; fresh produce served family style with no fried foods; water and juice instead of sugary drinks; and encouraging breast-feeding of infants.

“When kids aren’t moving, when they’re not active,” states Obama on the website, “they’re less likely to grow up healthy, and it’s a significant factor in our country’s building epidemic of childhood obesity.”