Free symposium to focus on nutrition, school lunch


Childhood nutrition and school lunches will be a central focus of this year’s HEAL Appalachia symposium, set for Wednesday, April 17. Attendees from throughout the Tri-Cities and Southwest Virginia will hear from nationally renowned speakers and learn what other communities are doing to combat childhood obesity by helping their children eat smarter and move more. Admission is free, but pre-registration is required.

The 2013 HEAL (Healthy Eating, Active Living) Appalachia symposium will be held Wednesday, April 17, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:10 p.m. at MeadowView Conference Resort and Convention Center. Participants will hear from national experts on childhood obesity and get new ideas for creative ways to impact childhood obesity and improve the health of children in our region.

HEAL Appalachia’s message centers around the organization’s Call to Action- the 5210 guidelines. The 5210 message stands for the recommendation for children to have each day:  five or more servings of fruits or vegetables, two hours or less of recreational screen time, one hour or more of vigorous exercise and zero sugary drinks, replacing them with water and low-fat milk.

Attendees at this year’s symposium will have the opportunity to learn more about 5210 and other programs designed to combat childhood obesity. Three key note speakers, Heidi Kessler a nationally certified School Nutrition Specialist, Stephanie Cihon, Corporate Director of Community Relations and Advocacy at ProMedica, and Ron Fink, School Nutrition Program Director for Bristol Tennessee City Schools, will address the crowd on their work in the fields of nutrition and child health.

“Obesity impacts all of us; especially our children,” said Bo Wilkes, Planning Manager for Mountain States Health Alliance (MSHA). “The 2013 HEAL Appalachia symposium continues to provide the opportunity for successful national organizations to share their experience with our region. The intent is to come together as a community to learn, share ideas, and partner together to improve the health of our children.”

Also during the symposium, HEAL Appalachia will announce the recipients of this year’s childhood obesity grants. This year, 103 organizations in Tennessee and Virginia have applied for these grants designed to directly impact childhood obesity in our region.

Registration and a continental breakfast will begin at 8:30 a.m. with presentations and fitness breaks to follow. Please RSVP by April 10, 2013 at

HEAL Appalachia was created in partnership by MSHA and East Tennessee State University to help local communities address health challenges, especially those associated with childhood obesity.

Heidi Kessler has been an integral part in changing the way Maine schoolchildren eat lunch since 2007. She engages school nutrition programs as partners in the fight against childhood obesity as the Let’s Go! School Nutrition Manager.

Stephanie Cihon has been with ProMedica since 2001. She is responsible for leading the health system’s obesity prevention initiative entitled Fields of Green, through which she has helped to develop learning maps, high school scholarship competitions and community partnerships.

Ron Fink has been the School Nutrition Program Director for Bristol Tennessee City Schools for the past nine years. He is an avid herb, garlic and vegetable gardener and an accomplished, self-taught chef.

The registration deadline for this event is April 10.

About Mountain States Health Alliance

Mountain States Health Alliance, a not-for-profit health care organization based in Johnson City, Tenn., operates a family of hospitals serving a 29-county, four-state region (Northeast Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, Southeastern Kentucky and Western North Carolina). MSHA offers a large tertiary hospital, several community hospitals, two critical access hospitals, rehabilitation, a children’s hospital, a behavioral health hospital, home care and hospice services as well as a comprehensive medical management corporation. Its 13,500 team members, associated physicians and volunteers are committed to its mission of bringing loving care to health care. For more information, visit

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