Michelle Paige Paterson, New York state’s first lady, said during a Tuesday visit to Skidmore College that she thinks children in middle school are at a perfect age to learn healthy eating and exercise habits.
When she was that age, in grade 7 or grade 8, she started jogging in Central Park in Manhattan and paying more attention to the food she was eating.
“I’ve been a runner for over 33 years,” Paterson said to an audience of about 75 students and community members in Skidmore’s Palamountain Hall.
The talk was sponsored by the Skidmore Democrats, an organization headed by student Amy Bergstraesser of Rhinebeck.
Paterson said it was a shock when her husband was elevated to governor in 2008 after the resignation of Eliot Spitzer.
“I never expected to be the first lady,” Paterson said. “But I felt the responsibility to use it [the opportunity] for the public good.”
One of Paterson’s initiatives is the Healthy Steps to Albany program she started in 2007 before she had any idea that her husband would be governor.
The anti-childhood obesity program was started in Harlem with 3,000 middle school students from 11 schools participating in a contest in which the students counted the steps they took, using free pedometers provided by a participating business.
The sixth, seventh and eighth grade classes competed against each other and the groups with the best scores were rewarded. One team was selected to go to the Governor’s Mansion in Albany for a “healthy meal” with the governor and his family.
The program expanded to upstate New York the next year with 26,000 middle school students involved in Syracuse, Rochester, Albany and Buffalo.
This year, the Health Steps to Albany program is being held this year only in the greater New York City area with 362,000 middle school students involved. The winning team will again be coming to the Governor’s Mansion in May.
Paterson said she hopes the country’s first lady, Michelle Obama, can help present awards this year. Paterson said Michelle Obama is developing a similar anti-childhood obesity program at the national level.
Paterson said she continues her job in the health field, working full time. “I am a health care professional,” Paterson said. She’s a wellness program director for Emblem Health. She said she gets great satisfaction from promoting healthy eating and living.
Categories: Schenectady County