As Americans, we tend to focus on “our own problems.”  Fair enough.  But many of the problems we struggle with – as individuals, as parents and as a country – are shared by other countries.  Take Mexico, for example.  Rising affluence, the proliferation of fast food and more working parents have lead to a rise in childhood obesity there as well.  And maybe there’s something there for all of us to learn.

One big lesson?  The cure starts at home.

With the approach of National Nutrition Month in March, maybe it’s worth looking at how the Junior League of Mexico City, working with The Association of Junior Leagues International Inc., is achieving with the all-volunteer Junior Leagues’ Kids in the Kitchen initiative.

Since 2006, more than 2,500 students have participated in the JLMC’s nutrition workshops, and some 80,000 copies of the Kids in the Kitchen cookbook have been distributed to schools, children’s hospitals and pediatricians in Mexico City.

But that’s just the start.  The real success of the Mexico City initiative comes with the involvement of the kids’ parents.  Parents work with their children to monitor and lower high body mass index.  Some parents even had their own BMIs recorded to further involve them in the program.  And then the work begins – but in a fun way that involves the kids in shopping and cooking for their families.

The results?  In addition to the impressive program performance, JLMC has partnered with the Disney Channel in Mexico to bring the lessons home to a wider audience on the kid-oriented program Zapping Zone.

Childhood obesity is an important issue for the Junior Leagues.  In addition to Mexico City, Kids in the Kitchen programs are now offered by Junior Leagues across the U.S., Canada and England.

Educational partners and supporters include:  Cartoon Network’s® “Get Animated”, the American Dietetic Association, Batter Up Kids!, Healthy Kids Challenge, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s “We Can!” , the School Nutrition Association, Share Our Strength, Texas Dept. of Agriculture’s “Square Meals”, the United States Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.