Improving Nutrition in the Schools
The message is all around us: Childhood obesity is on the rise. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that the prevalence of children aged 6-11 years who are overweight has more than doubled in the past 20 years. Among adolescents aged 12-19, the prevalence of overweight has more than tripled.
The statistics on obesity among youth with disabilities are even more alarming. Data from the 1999-2002 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) indicate that the rate of obesity was significantly higher for youth (6-17 years) with mobility limitations (29.7%) compared to youth without mobility limitations (15.7%) (Bandini, Curtin, Hamad, Tybor, & Must, 2005).
The CDC also reports that early indicators of atherosclerosis, the most common cause of heart disease, can begin in childhood and adolescence. Furthermore, type 2 diabetes, previously only known as something adults develop, has become increasingly prevalent among children and adolescents as rates of overweight and obesity continue to rise. The need to improve our children's health has never been greater.
Many children consume over half of their daily calories at school. Unfortunately, school breakfast and lunch programs are notoriously unhealthy. A show that used to air on ABC, "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution," depicts just how much work needs to be done in the schools.
In this show, British chef Jamie Oliver visits Huntington, West Virginia, a town that the CDC has singled out as one of the most obese and unhealthy in the nation. His mission in this town is to revamp the school breakfast and lunch programs to make them healthier and to provide education about food and cooking to the community. The issues he faces in Huntington are, unfortunately, all too common in our country.
Oliver learns that French fries count as a vegetable. He realizes that the school is serving sausage pizza for breakfast. And, most alarming, when he asks children to identify common fruits and vegetables, they cannot.
First Lady Michelle Obama has made combating childhood obesity her mission and her passion. The goal of her "Let's Move" campaign is to solve the epidemic of childhood obesity within a generation. The campaign aims to provide healthier foods in schools, give parents the support and education they need to incorporate healthy habits at home, help kids become more physically active, and make healthy, affordable food available in every part of the country.
The Healthier US Schools Challenge Program, which is part of "Let's Move," has established new standards for food quality in schools and has focused attention on nutrition education, participation in meal programs, and physical activity. Visit the link below to learn more about how the schools in your community can meet this challenge: http://www.letsmove.gov/schools
In addition to healthier foods in schools, it is imperative that these healthier choices continue at home. As schools let out for summer this month, it is essential that families continue the work that is being done in the schools. Visit the following links to learn more about how to incorporate healthier habits at home and make healthy eating a priority for the whole family: