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Foundation takes healthy lifestyle message to heartland

Getting kids to eat healthily and be in bed on time can be tough for any parent so that's when you send in Ruben Wiki.

The retired Kiwis and Warriors hardman, who was often the fittest man in the team through his playing days, is now helping youngsters build healthy routines when it comes to food, sleep and hydration.

It's an important message, especially in South Auckland.

According to the Ministry of Health there are now nearly 48,000 people with diabetes in Counties Manukau alone – about 10% of the district's population.

One third of those are from Pasifika backgrounds, the ministry estimates.

But kids aren't won over by statistics and numbers. So along with current player Bunty Afoa and representatives from the Warriors Community Foundation, Wiki stopped in at Otara's Bairds Mainfreight Primary School recently to reinforce some healthy life lessons.

They are some of the more than 7000 kids this year who have been part of the Warriors Foundation's Prepare to Perform programme.

On the day, Wiki played to the parochial crowd and announced himself as a former Otara Scorpion, saying he understood what it was like to grow up in a family where the best option for food was the cheapest and that small changes could make a big difference.

"We can't change them overnight but it's more, if you're going to have the KFC, take the skin off, add some broccoli and get that balance right," said Wiki

Ten-year-old Liam Kaukau was fully invested in the presentation, afterwards talking about how much he had learned - both about rugby league and healthy dietary options.

He said it meant a lot to hear that sort of information coming from players he watches "all the time".

Even principal Fiona McAree-Ngaau was happily surprised at the kids' enthusiasm, saying it was good

to see the kids' excitement at taking part in a programme that supplements what the school is already doing.

McAree-Ngaau said movement and diet were instrumental to getting the best out of kids in the classroom and, since starting a similar programme at her school about 10 years ago, improvements in student performance had been stark.

"We are big on teaching kids about their wellbeing and their health and today epitomises that learning. We hope that they will take something away that they will change in their lives and maybe take home to their parents so that the message gets out into our community to help all of our whānau."

But the pandemic has made getting the message out there a little tougher, said Warriors Community Foundation CEO Lincoln Jefferson.

He said it had been the better part of three years without face-to-face interaction with kids, which he said was "so important" in getting the messages about healthy eating to stick.

But since April they have seen about 7000 kids and, with additional funding from Round the Bays' Youth Sports Fund, they hoped to see a few thousand more before the year is out, he said.

But it's only one of the ways that health services are trying to address the issues that come from unhealthy diets.

In May, the Government committed $20m to train 100 Pacific health coaches, along with funding other initiatives, to aid in preventing and treating diabetes in South Auckland. The coaches will provide guidance to help people make dietary and lifestyle choices to help prevent or manage the condition.

The Warriors Community Foundation will receive a boost with $10,000 of funding from the Round the Bays' Youth Sports Fund, which was launched last year.

Round the Bays event manager Vanessa Fleming said the Warriors foundation epitomises "fun and fitness for all" and encouraged children of all abilities to be active.

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  • CLICK HERE to support the Warriors Community Foundation in Round the Bays 2023.
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