It's not always easy to say "no" to that high-calorie snack in the grocery aisle or at a friend's house, and for kids it can be even more difficult.

A national program operating in Tucson partners mature adults with kids to teach the children about obesity prevention by promoting good nutrition and exercise.

CATCH Healthy Habits - Coordinated Approach to Child Health - is part of a national nonprofit organization for older adults called Oasis. Members of Tucson Oasis are volunteering this summer, working with kids at Soleng Tom Elementary School, 10520 E. Camino Quince, and the Holmes Tuttle Clubhouse at Pueblo Gardens Park, 2585 E. 36th St.

The CATCH program is designed to show kids how staying healthy can be fun and easy. Short lessons on the heart and body teach them how eating sugary snacks and sodas can be detrimental to their health.

"Obesity in general is a national epidemic among adults and children," said David Eppihimer, executive director of Tucson Oasis. "There's a real problem with sugary drinks and fatty foods that are really contributing to that."

Kids are also introduced to alternative snacks such as fruit kabobs and yogurt. After a lesson and a snack, the adult volunteers lead the kids through games that require moderate to vigorous activity.

"The kids really enjoy it and ask what the program is and when we are coming back," said Laura Balis, CATCH program coordinator.

CATCH is free, and the summer session runs through July 16. CATCH sessions will resume around the beginning of September.

CATCH Healthy Habits has several partners and sponsors, including CareMore, the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and the YMCA.

"You should eat the right amount of calories each day," said fifth-grader Zachary Nicolosi, 10, a student in CATCH at Soleng Tom Elementary School.

"I learned that some foods aren't good for you but some foods are good for you, like apples, tomatoes, grapes, bananas and all that stuff," said Daniel Duperre, 9, also a CATCH student at Soleng Tom Elementary.

The program isn't just good for kids: Studies have shown that physical and community engagement provides tremendous benefits to older adults, keeping them happier and healthier, Eppihimer said.

Oasis offers classes in subjects including dance, computer programs and art at various locations in the Tucson area. More information is at online.

"I heard about the program and thought, I don't get around a lot of young kids, so I went for the energy and stuff like that," said Oasis member Mike Foy, 72.

According to the Oasis website, CATCH Healthy Habits is now in 18 cities across 14 states with more than 900 volunteers and 6,200 participating children.

Interested in CATCH?

For more information about the CATCH program, call Tucson Oasis at 322-5627.

Isaac Cox is a University of Arizona student who is an apprentice at the Star. Contact him at 573-4117 or