On The Road To Better Health: How one parent is working to build healthier habits at school and at home

On The Road To Better Health: How one parent is working to build healthier habits at school and at home

LaTasha Flake (“Mama LaTasha”) always serves you with an infectious smile.

It’s her way, really. A bubble of energy, care, attention and fun.

As a morning and afternoon bus monitor, she helps make sure students at Timbuktu Academy of Science and Technology are getting healthier choices in their meals.

When it was announced Timbuktu would participate in Building Healthy Communities, Flake was overwhelmed. She was thankful, having seen up-close the foods kids tend to gravitate toward.

Getting kids to try healthy foods at school makes it easier to reinforce healthy eating patterns at home.

At Timbuktu junk food snacks are not on the menu. Neither is pork. Instead the school serves chicken and a lot of turkey-based products.

Timbuktu’s African-centered culture inspired Flake to remove pork from her own diet, but it was challenging. “If you don’t have pork in your diet, you have a lot fewer complications that follow along the black community,” she says.

The challenge for Flake and others is to make sure kids eat healthy when they go home.

While it’s easy to talk about incorporating healthier choices, the reality for Flake’s family and others is one of access, and sometimes, those choices can be rather limited.

Like many Detroit residents, she uses public transportation. Sometimes she can get a ride, but more often than not, it’s a matter of doing what works best for her family.

Flake would like more quality shopping alternatives in her local neighborhood and improved access to affordable, healthy foods.

“I’ve been budgeting a little tighter to make food last,” Flake says.

In LaTesha Flake’s household, snack foods like hot chips are an occasional treat.

The main goal in her household is to promote healthy snacks whenever possible. While her daughter enjoys hotflavored chips, Flake limits them. She prefers to have her kids eat popcorn, organic cereal bars, trail mix with the peanuts and yogurt.

“We do that in the breakfast bags we make for the kids (in school),” she says. “Apple sauce or yogurt … something to make them not be on the ziggity boom with the sweets.”

The trick, she says, is removing all the bad choices from sight.

“It may be something you have to get used to, but it benefits your family in the long-run,” Flake says. “As long as I have those healthy choices for them, and there’s nothing else, they’ll take the healthy choice.”

Photos by Paul Engstrom


Building Healthy Communities (BHC) has been around for more than half a decade, helping to shape healthy school cultures across Michigan.

BHC, a statewide collaborative effort (founded by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan), provides the tools a school needs to set goals for increased physical activity and dietary education. The program receives added support from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Michigan Fitness Foundation, United Dairy Industry of Michigan, University of Michigan and Wayne State University’s Center for School Health.


Building Healthy Communities aims to curb childhood obesity by keeping kids active, eating right

Students at Timbuktu Academy learn how to build a healthy community

Try it Tuesdays: How schools are helping our kids develop healthier habits

On The Road To Better Health: How one parent is working to build healthier habits at school and at home

Power Off: Why kids need a break from technology

Moving Forward: A PE teacher’s perspective on how BHC is making a difference


If you are a K – 5 school, it’s time to apply to participate in the 2017 – 2018 Building Healthy Communities program, a free program offered to qualified schools (March 29 registration deadline).

Additional K – 12 school programs will be announced soon.

To sign-up or learn more visit: bcbsm.com/buildhealth 



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