Spotlight Blog


Give School Lunch a Second Chance

Posted by letsgo on September 10, 2014

Authored by: Heidi Kessler, Let’s Go! Senior Program Manager and School Nutrition Specialist

Many students will be donning new lunchboxes alongside their spiffy backpacks and pencil cases as they head off to school this September. We know, planning, prepping and making lunch to fill those boxes can be time consuming so we’re offering you an alternative – school lunch.  There is a quiet revolution going on in school cafeterias throughout Maine and encouraging kids to eat school lunch can end up saving you precious time and money. South_Portland


You don’t have to throw nutrition out the window when you support your child eating school lunch.  Schools have made significant improvements to their menus in the past few years.  For example, Forest Hills Consolidated School in Jackman is revamping the favorite homemade peanut butter and jelly muffin to be low fat and whole grain. The tomatoes and apples offered in MSAD 59 are almost always provided by local farmers.  Students at Biddeford Middle School are eating up the dinosaur kale and Southwestern Lentils are going over well in Kennebunk Elementary school.  Teriyaki chicken salad is a hit at Wells Ogunquit CSD and the green beans with slivered almonds are running out at Morse Elementary School in Freeport. 


School_Lunch_Photo1Over 250 schools across Maine, including the ones mentioned above, are leading the nation on improving school meals by joining forces with Let’s Go!, a nationally recognized childhood obesity prevention program based at The Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital at Maine Medical Center. Let’s Go! is changing the landscape of school meals in Maine by developing regional infrastructure and capacity to improve school meals.  School nutrition programs are working together across district lines to identify best practices and to bring them into your child’s cafeteria.  So far, over 75 of the schools working with Let’s Go! have achieved national recognition from the USDA for offering school meals that exceed the federal nutrition requirements.  Only 3% of schools nationwide have received this recognition.


Give school lunch a second look.  You may be surprised by what you find; salad bars, fresh fruit, whole grains, lean proteins and sugary drinks replaced by coolers of water.


The 3rd Annual 5-2-1-0 National Childhood Obesity Conference

Posted by letsgo on September 3, 2014

Authored by: Dr. Victoria Rogers, Director of Let’s Go!

We are two weeks away from our 3rd Annual Let’s Go! 5-2-1-0 National Childhood Obesity Conference and I couldn’t be more excited. Fall in Maine is a great time to host upwards of 150 healthcare professionals from across the globe. Yup, attendees are joining us from as far as Guam. And with September designated as National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, it’s only fitting that we elevate the conversation and continue focusing on collaboration.


image 1This year’s conference boast a panel of acclaimed childhood obesity experts who will discuss metabolic syndrome, the impact of health care reform, overeating vs. obesity, increasing healthy food and beverage options at schools and hospitals, and more.  Local childhood obesity prevention experts will host workshops and discussions. Attendees have the opportunity to learn from and network with other change leaders, and walk away with tools and techniques they can implement in their own communities.


We’re also lucky to have Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation, American Academy of Pediatrics, Maine chapter, MaineHealth and The Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital as conference partners. These partners are helping us unite passionate medical and public health professionals to discuss next steps in the fight against childhood obesity. We’ll discuss what’s working, what’s not working, and where we go from here.


Thanks again to everyone involved, I look forward to seeing you here in Portland on September 18th and 19th.  To meet our presenters and learn more about the upcoming conference visit our website or click of the yellow conference banner.



Drink Up Without the Added Sugar

Posted by letsgo on August 28, 2014

Authored by: Adrienne Gallant Let’s Go! Knox County Coordinator

When my daughter entered Kindergarten a couple of years ago I went to a meeting for new parents. At the end of the meeting I went up and introduced myself to the principal and told her that I would love to talk with her about having the school sign up to become a Let’s Go! 5-2-1-0 school, and oh, by the way, I’m Norah’s mom. Her response was “I know Norah”. Concern flashed through my mind. You see, school had only been in session for THREE DAYS and the principal already knew who my daughter was! She went on to explain that during the first lunch of the school season, after all of Norah’s kindergarten class was seated in the cafeteria, Norah proceeded to tell her whole class, and anyone else within ear shot, about how bad chocolate milk is for you because of all the sugar. That water is the best choice a person can make when choosing something to drink!Little boy drinking water


Although she might have found a better way to say it, she’s right – water is the best drink of choice for our bodies. Many of us may think we’re making a healthy choice in our drinks (and even food) but sometimes we don’t even know we’re drinking or eating sugar. Added sugar goes by many names: high-fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, any kind of “syrup” (malt, brown, rice), anything that ends is “-ose” (dextrose, lactose, glucose, etc) and agave, to name a few.


So the next time you pick up a bottle of something that isn’t just water think of my daughter and take a quick peak at the nutrition label on the back. If you see sugar or one of its “alter-egos” listed think about putting it down and picking up some water instead. Kids are watching and listening (as my daughter continues to remind me through her actions and words) so let’s show them how to stay healthy by making healthy choices.


For more information on the amount of sugar that might be in your favorite drink check out this great NEW Let’s Go! resource. 


Why You Should Move More at Work

Posted by letsgo on August 7, 2014

AYP1347424Authored by: Dr. Michael Dedekian, MD and Let’s Go! Advisor

“If exercise was a pill, I’d give it to everyone!” 

I have fond memories of an enthusiastic professor in medical school who taught us about the power of prevention. He would talk about patients he saw in the emergency room or clinic with heart trouble or diabetes. So much of the day, he said, was spent trying to cure a disease that could have been prevented in the first place, often by being more physically active.

Everyone knows exercise is good for you. “Good” is probably not a strong enough word. Exercise is a magic potion known to improve, and sometimes cure, some of the most common diseases on the planet.

However, here’s something most of us probably don’t know: moving around at work, even if you don’t exercise, is also a powerful medicine. Evidence from health studies has been building in recent years showing that sitting for more than an hour or two at a time is not good for us, increasing our risk for heart disease and other health problems.  Amazingly, this seems to be true even for those of us who exercise regularly. This is called an “independent risk factor” for disease, meaning that even if you eat right and exercise, sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day is still a strike against you. 

Living in a healthy way is an enormous challenge.  Time is tight, we’re all busy and unhealthy food is cheap and easily available.  However, there’s a ray of hope that even the little things we do in our day can tip the scales and set us on a healthier path.  Let’s Go!, a program of The Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital at Maine Medical Center, has recognized this and encourages employees to move more throughout the day.  The 1 in their popular 5-2-1-0 message reminds children to get 1 hour or more of physical activity every day something that’s not always attainable for working parents.

Sit for 60 Move for 3Meetings lasting more than an hour should include 3 minute breaks to stretch.  It is becoming more and more acceptable to stand and move during a meeting.  Even better, sometimes our schedules include “walking meetings” which have a knack for keeping us focused and efficient. 

Moving at work doesn’t take much: stand up, stretch your arms up and out to the sides as far as you can and take a few deep breaths. Encourage coworkers to join in and see how the room’s energy changes. Take the stairs, go for a short walk at lunch or get up and go talk to your coworkers instead of sending an email.  You’ll feel better, be healthier and probably get more work done as a result.

My medical school professor was right, moving is medicine.  I prescribe that pill for everyone! To purchase posters for your office visit our online store here.


How to Handle Convenience Stores

Posted by letsgo on July 24, 2014

Authored by: Adrienne Gallantsnacks Let’s Go! Knox County Coordinator

It’s mid-July and you know what that means: summer is well underway! Summer vacations are planned and road trips can begin! As a kid I remember taking many road trips during my two months of freedom. One of the highlights for my brother and I were the stops at the different stores to get “treats”. My mother was very health conscious and sometimes the only time we were allowed to get anything that wasn’t what she would call “healthy” was at a convenience store.

As a mom of two small children I know what it’s like to have them yell from the back seat “I’m hungry!” or “I’m thirsty!” or “If I don’t eat something soon I’m going to pass out!” (which is never true since I know they had something to eat twenty minutes before).

Thankfully convenience stores look much different than they used to! Depending on the store you visit you can find anything from dry roasted nuts, dried fruit (with no added sugar), hummus and fresh fruit to yogurt and string cheese! Beware the serving size!!! Even though a bag of dry roasted pistachios sound healthy (and a serving of them can pack quite a protein punch), a whole bag from a store might be 3 servings…that means you have to triple the calorie count, sodium count and fat count on the bag….YIKES!!!!

Healthy SnackIf you’re traveling and the kids get hungry, it’s okay to stop at a convenience store. You can use Let’s Go!’s helpful guide to avoid the candy isle and grab a good for you snack. Go ahead and take a second look; these stores have certainly changed since I was a kid (and my kids will tell you that was a LONG time ago).


Did someone say a FREE Park Pass?

Posted by letsgo on July 15, 2014

Let’s Go! thrives thanks to our partners. We’re lucky to have support from the Maine State Bureau of Parks and Lands and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation. This guest blog from one partner celebrates another partner. This is how communities come together to effect change.

Authored by Karen Voci, President, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation 

Summer is here and that means long hot sunny days and cool nights – and lots of family adventures along the way!

There are so many ways to keep active during the summer – swimming, hiking, bike riding, running.  One place you can experience all of these activities is at a Maine State Park.

Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation has partnered with Let’sGo! and the Mainepass pic2 Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s Bureau of Parks and Lands to make 10,000 Maine State Parks passes available to patients at primary care practices affiliated with Let’sGo!. The free pass is accepted at any of Maine’s 48 state parks and historic sites (with the exception of Baxter State Park), and it’s good through the end of the year. No excuses!


 We want to help prevent childhood obesity by creating healthy opportunities for children and their family to stay active. Through the Foundation’s support, Let’s Go! is encouraging doctors to promote the 5-2-1-0 messaging with their patients, and focus on ways to build a lifetime of wellness. These free park passes make it affordable for families to enjoy the great outdoors and embrace an active and healthy way of life.

Enjoying the great Maine outdoors – its beautiful natural resources and its many recreational opportunities – is a gift.  Keep your family healthy all summer long starting with a fun visit to a Maine State Park.  And don’t forget the healthy snacks!


Obstacles Can Be Overcome

Posted by letsgo on July 1, 2014

When Kate shared the following story with us we knew we had to share it with you all. It’s easy to celebrate success but we don’t always reflect on the challenges. Kate’s story reminds us that obstacles can be overcome and that your child’s health is worth your persistence. Thanks Kate

Authored by: Kate Allerding, Maine Parent

My son, Shanon, has been attending Before & After Care and Summer Camp through the Westbrook, Maine Community Center since he was in Kindergarten (he’s going into 5th grade next year), and I have a history of being dissatisfied with their healthy eating/active living choices for the kids (TV first thing in the morning, Capri Sun “ice packs” so they have a treat when it melts, etc.) so I was thrilled when they became a Let’s Go! site at the beginning of the school year.  The Capri Suns went away and TVs were turned off among other things. However, there was still one thing that drove me batty- the very accessible Café in the Community Center that has all the chips, candy, and soda/energy drinks/bug juice that a child could want.

Kate and Shanon at the Color Run

Kate and Shanon at the Color Run

You see, last year at summer camp, children were allowed to bring money to spend at the Café where they bought chips, candy, and sugary drinks for lunch.  This practice continued even after they became a Let’s Go! site (but only during vacation camps). So, in November of last year, I finally decided to reach out to the Children’s Program Coordinator at the Community Center and spoke to him about my concerns around their inconsistent policies.  I wanted to understand why, in the course of 1 week, children could be allowed to have candy and sugary drinks with their lunch during a vacation camp day and the very next day, a normal school day, these things weren’t allowed.  I was told that unfortunately, vacation & summer camps are different from the After School program and weren’t held to the same Let’s Go! standards.  Needless to say, I wasn’t happy with that answer- so I joined the Westbrook 21st CCLC Advisory Board, continued to ask questions, and push the importance of messaging consistency.

You can imagine my surprise (which inspired an impromptu dance in my dining room) when I reached page 6 of the Family Summer Camp Guide - not only did they hear my concerns; they found a way to incorporate their Let’s Go!  after school strategies into their non-Let’s Go! out-of-school program AND got the café on board.  Just plain AWESOME!!!


Good Work Doesn’t Go Unnoticed

Posted by letsgo on June 25, 2014

Authored by: Heidi Kessler, Let’s Go! Senior Program Manager

aThe American Hospital Association (AHA) announced today that Maine Medical Center is being awarded for its collaborative efforts to improve community health with the 2014 NOVA Award.

Each year the AHA honors 5 hospitals across the nation for their effective, collaborative programs focusing on community health. The Award acknowledges Let’s Go! and the program’s unique elements such as our multi-sector model, 5-2-1-0 message and innovative approach to implementation.

We’re proud to be a program of The Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital and thrilled that Maine Medical Center is being noticed for demonstrating how working with partners in the community can improve the health and wellness of the people and patients that hospitals serve.

Let’s Go! is a statewide program with many partners and this award is a true reflection of how strong statewide partnerships can positively impact our communities. Working with health systems, health coalitions and communities we can effect change, preventing childhood obesity from becoming the norm.

The AHA will present the award July 22 at a ceremony during the Health Forum/AHA Leadership Summit in San Diego. Photos, video and updates from the event to come. In the meantime, please join us in congratulating Maine Medical Center and all Let’s Go! partners on this prestigious distinction! 

To learn and read the article more please visit


Innovative ways to support our partners in the fight against childhood obesity

Posted by letsgo on June 20, 2014

Authored by: Emily Walters, Let’s Go! Healthcare Program Manager

We’re always looking for ways to support our partners. Earlier this year we saw a need for interactive, educational tools and by May we had developed, piloted and introduced a series of free online courses. Healthcare professionals and child care providers can now visit our website to obtain strategies for helping children and families develop healthy behaviors.Module

Next Steps for the Healthcare Professional

The epidemic of childhood obesity is one of the most challenging public health issues of our time.  Evidence based guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) are thorough but difficult to implement in practice. Our Next Steps online course consists of 22 modules of 10 minutes or less and complements the existing Next Steps Guide.

Themes range from portion sizes and healthy drinks to physical activity and understanding healthy foods.  We aim to equip pediatric providers with effective, evidence-based tools to guide their patients to better health. Maine Medical Center designates this educational activity for a maximum of 5 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s)™ and credits are given after completion of all modules. And a special thanks to the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation for thier financial support.

Knowledge for the Child Care Provider

Let’s Go! believes everyone can play a role in reversing the childhood obesity epidemic. The early childhood trainings are designed to educate child care providers on physical activity and nutrition-related topics for young children. There are currently 4 different modules available on: the history and causes of the obesity epidemic, physical activity for young children, nutrition for young children, and support for breastfeeding families. Each module varies in length from about 30 minutes to 1 hour and is followed by a knowledge-enhancing quiz and certificate of licensing contact hours.

For more information on Let’s Go!’s course offerings visit the “Online Trainings” section of our site.


Healthy Food in Maine Hospitals? Check!

Posted by letsgo on May 29, 2014

PuzzleBckgd [Converted]Authored by Emily Kain, Let’s Go! Dissemination Program Manger 

As part of our multi-sector approach to obesity prevention, we work in many sites: schools, daycares, healthcare practices etc. Now, in partnership with MaineHealth, we’re working with local hospitals to make sure the places that help us stay healthy are living healthy every day. Let’s Go! brings you Check Plus!, an easy way to identify the new healthy foods and beverages available in hospitals across the state.

Whether you work at one of the participating hospitals or find yourself visiting, you’ll have new healthy options and signage to help make the healthy choice the easy choice. Look for Check Plus!, a green Check Plus label, sticker or sign that identifies healthy options throughout the cafeteria based on guidelines from the Hospital Healthy Food Initiative.

Maine Medical Center was the first hospital to pilot the Check Plus system in March of 2014.  Their food service staff and dieticians worked together to put up signage across the cafeteria highlighting their healthiest options. We’re giving Maine Medical Center kudos for their dedication and commitment to improving the health of their employees, patients and community members!

It’s always exciting to see positive change happening in our communities. Is your local hospital one of the ten in Maine currently participating?

Check Plus

  • Southern Maine Health Care, Biddeford Medical Center
  • Southern Maine Health Care, Sanford Medical Center
  • Lincoln County Healthcare
  • Maine Medical Center
  • Mid Coast Hospital
  • Pen Bay Medical Center
  • Spring Harbor Hospital
  • St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center
  • Stephens Memorial Hospital
  • Waldo County General Hospital

For more information visit