By Ashley Conroy
JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - In an effort to tackle the state's high obesity rate, the Mississippi Head Start Association held their first annual conference to teach healthy eating and exercise habits to members.
As educators, Executive Director Nita Thompson said the goal is for Head Start staff members to teach what they learned to the children they represent.
"We have a track record of helping families learn how to incorporate sort of healthy behaviors and habits in their day to day living," said Thompson.
Governor Haley Barbour started out the conference with a speech about the importance of targeting children before it's too late.
"A lot of parents simply don't recognize that children are overweight, because everybody their around is overweight," said Barbour.
"Fit for Change" trainer and former professional football player, Paul LaCoste was the guest trainer at Tuesday's event.
He started everybody with basic exercises that he says members can easily teach to children.
"Having seminars like this and working with our teachers is the next big thing that Mississippi needs to do," said LaCoste.
Head Start also brought in top chefs from around the state to teach everyone how to prepare healthy foods.
Chef Nathan Glenn said a few simple steps can go a long way.
"And just kind of show them, open their eyes, everything - food is real simple, everything is real basic," said Glenn.
Head Start member Vanessa Patterson was impressed with what she learned Tuesday.
"I didn't know what to expect. I'm really impressed, and I've really enjoyed it and I've learned a lot of things," said Patterson.
Head Start provides an array of opportunities for children aged five and younger.
They currently serve almost 27,000 children in the program statewide.
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