‘Chef Erma’ tackling childhood obesity with Gil Carter Initiative

Erma Forbes, a chef and registered nurse, is beginning the Gil Carter Initiative — Stop Childhood Obesity program Monday, Sept. 18 at Central Park Community Center located at 1534 S.W. Clay St. in Topeka. (Thad Allton/TheCapital-Journal)

One woman’s mission is to take out childhood obesity with education for children and their parents in Topeka with the Gil Carter Initiative — Stop Childhood Obesity program.


Erma Forbes, known to the children as Chef Erma, is a culinary chef and registered nurse who is spearheading the program. The free three-week program will kickoff 3:30 to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, Sept. 18-22, at Central Park Community Center located at 1534 S.W. Clay St. in Topeka. The second week of the program will be Sept. 25-29, and the third will be Oct. 2-6. The program will then repeat starting Oct. 16.

“I do follow-up care. I call them to make sure I don’t lose them after the three weeks,” said Forbes, host of the Gil Carter Initiative.

The program includes three segments — health lecture, cooking demonstration and exercise — in partnership with the Kansas State University Research and Extension. School-age children 5-18 can register for the program and it is limited to 15 children.

Forbes said on the cause of childhood obesity, “I think maybe the lack of knowledge, I would say, because if you have knowledge, then you can develop things from it and then after that is the discipline to do what the knowledge gives you to do. And then paired with that, our food system is very terrible.”

She wants to get parents more involved in what their children are eating and the schools as well. She also contributes inactivity to childhood obesity.

“They should watch what the children eat and encourage activities, and do activities with your children,” she said. “Go for a walk, go for a swim, take a nice little hike.”

“There’s not one thing that makes a person healthy; it’s a combination. For me, I use a combination of seven things: I use water, I use diet or nutrition, exercise, fresh air, sunshine, good moral support and temperance. If you’re a religious person, you should depend on your religion. If you’re not, then meditate,” Forbes said.

Forbes has lived in Topeka for about two years after moving to the area from Florida. She was born in Grenada and moved to the United States. After graduating high school when she was 17, she got her nursing degree, and decided to go back to school and receive her degree in culinary arts.

“I combined the two, and I mainly concentrate on how to help people stay healthy or get well from eating all natural; not that I throw away medicine, it has its place. After I get the diagnosis, then I treat it as much as I can naturally and with a few adjustments, a lot of the things work,” Forbes said.

The Gil Carter Initiative is a nonprofit organization started in 2015 after the death of Gil Carter. Forbes was his nurse for the last 10 months of his life while he was terminally ill with cancer.

“He holds the record for the longest home run and was never truly recognized properly. But they inducted him into the hall of fame around his death at his home in a formal ceremony, and after his death they did it formally at Lake Shawnee. So he was inducted in 2015,” Forbes said of Carter, who was a native Topekan.

Forbes decided to do the organization in Carter’s name and offer many services. Carter worked a lot with children when he retired and did speaking engagements. After he was ill, he would receive home food deliveries and would have Forbes distribute it to the children in the neighborhood to make sure they had food to eat.

“That appealed to my heart, so I’m doing that,” she said. “He was concerned about childhood obesity, which leads to adult on-set obesity also.”

For more information or to sign up for the program, call Forbes at 260-9195 or email gcarterinitiative@gmail.com; or go to the Central Park Community Center, or call 251-2965, or visitgcarterinitiative.org.


Upcoming events

Gil Carter Initiative Annual Banquet, 5 p.m. Nov. 5 at the Governor’s Row House, 811 S.W. Buchanan St. Tickets are $55 or a table for 10 is $500. Information: (785) 260-9195, email admin@gcarterinitiative.org or visit www.gcarterinitiative.org.

Health Fair, 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Nov. 15 at Topeka Performing Arts Center, 214 S.E. 8th Ave. Information: (785) 260-9195 or visit www.gcarterinitiative.org.