In celebration of the Healthy Weight Commitment’s five-year anniversary, we’re spotlighting a few of the partners who joined forces with the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation in an effort to reduce childhood obesity. These partners helped us achieve a 6.4 trillion reduction in calories from the marketplace, supported families in achieving energy balance, and reached nearly 15 million students with our Energy Balance 101 curriculum. Learn more about how the Girl Scouts of the Nation’s Capital have partnered with the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation in teaching scouts healthy habits through the video and Q&A below with Lidia Soto-Harmon, CEO, Girl Scout Nation’s Capital.
Tell us about yourself and the Girl Scouts of the Nation’s Capital.
As a young child I moved with my family to Latin America, witnessing poverty and injustice in Ecuador and El Salvador and I remember thinking I wanted to help improve the lives of those less fortunate when I grew up.
Today I believe that we can change the world by improving the lives of girls. When girls grow up with courage and confidence, they become women who strengthen our families and our nation. As the CEO of the largest Girl Scout council in the nation, with 90,000 girl and adult members in the Greater Washington Region, I am responsible for delivering a quality leadership experience to our members.
Girl Scouts is the premier leadership organization for girls. Our program encourages girls to discover the world around them, connect with their community and friends and take action to make the world a better place. This transformative experience is helping shape a generation of leaders. I am proud of the work we do to reach girls, in particular our outreach to attract girls from at-risk and isolated communities. With an inclusive approach, our Girl Scout program engages girls from all walks of life, involves the family and makes a positive impact on our community.
How did you first get involved with the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation?
Girl Scouts of the USA, in partnership with the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, developed three Healthy Habits booklets for volunteers to use in conjunction with their It’s Your Planet – Love It! Journey adult guides. As a youth serving organization, we are concerned with the increase in childhood obesity rates and we know that for girls from low-income families the chance of being obese is even higher. The opportunity to instill an understanding of how to create healthy habits and energy balance will empower girls to lead healthy, balanced and productive lives.
Why is this partnership so unique?
This partnership gets the energy balance message directly to those that need it most. Through our Girl Scout Young Leaders Program, an effort that reaches the most vulnerable girls in our community, college students are leading troops and helping at-risk girls understand the importance of energy in and energy out. This is especially challenging in communities where it is not often safe to play outdoors. But through the Girl Scout afterschool program, we are reaching these girls and giving them a Girl Scout experience each year.
Another extremely valuable aspect of the program is the support provided to our dedicated adult volunteers. Our leaders are able to download the Healthy Habits booklets at no charge and use these valuable resources at Girl Scout troop meetings and help to make the troop experience more rewarding.
Finally, it is always rewarding to engage girls with positive messages about healthy, active living. We know that all too often the message to “diet” can be dangerous for girls, resulting in eating disorders. We are proud to align our program with messages that help girls understand how to live a happy and balanced life.
What are some of your biggest accomplishments over the last five years?
I am very proud of the work that we have done to inspire girls of all abilities, girls from linguistically isolated communities, and girls whose families are struggling financially. We are bringing these girls into our Girl Scout family, where they can explore their full potential. And, we see first-hand how life-changing this experience can be.
I had the chance to see the power of this movement when Girl Scouts Nation’s Capital hosted Girl Scouts’ 100th anniversary celebration. With my incredibly talented team, we delivered the largest gathering of Girl Scouts (a quarter million Girl Scouts from around the world) at the National Mall on June 9, 2012. Girl Scouts Rock the Mall was a celebration of epic proportion, with sisterhood and music. It was very touching to see multi generations of Girl Scout families, grandmothers, mothers, daughters and great-granddaughters all come together in song on the National Mall.
How do you see your organization playing a role in the mission to reduce childhood obesity in the future?
We will always be an organization passionate about helping girls achieve their highest potential. We know in order for girls to be leaders and strong advocates, they must be healthy. We have been providing girls with a safe and nurturing environment to explore new things, learn new skills, while building the confidence to advocate for the things that matter most to them. Our program is comprehensive and looks at the complete girl. As a result, we will always care about ways to promote healthy, active lifestyles for girls and women.