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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Fighting childhood obesity ... in the classroom

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Purdue Extension Health and Human Sciences Educator Peggy Davis (left) and Purdue Extension Family Nutrition Program Assistant Donna Owens recently visited all fourth- and fifth-grade Clay Community School classrooms to discuss healthy eating.
Over the past four decades, obesity rates have soared among children of all ages, increasing nearly five-fold among those ages 6-11.

Some experts believe that if obesity among children continues to increase, our current generation of children will become the first in American history to live shorter lives than their parents.

The average child eats fast food at least two times a week. Only three out of 10 high school seniors report eating green vegetables "nearly every day."

In a study of 200 neighborhoods, there were three times as many supermarkets in wealthy neighborhoods as in poor neighborhoods, leaving fast food restaurants as the most convenient meal option for low-income families.

Almost one in four children do not participate in any free-time physical activity. Ninety-two percent of elementary schools don't have physical education classes year round. Less than a quarter of high school students take daily physical education classes. A typical American youth spends approximately four-five hours a day watching TV, using the computer or playing video games.

There are an alarming number of children developing Type 2 diabetes due to being overweight. High levels of cholesterol and high blood pressure, main risk factors for development of heart disease, are found in most obese children. Sleep apnea, the interruption of breathing while sleeping, is considered the most severe problem faced by obese children. In rare cases, sleep apnea can lead to other problems such as difficulty in learning and memory. Obese children are at higher risk of developing liver disease, orthopedic problems and asthma. More than 70 percent of obese children retain their overweight and obese condition even during adulthood.

What are some of the reasons behind these numbers?

* Kids are eating more empty calories than ever before,

* Forms of entertainment have drastically changed. Just a few decades ago, kids spent the majority of their time playing outside with other kids, and

* Today's kids spend much more time in vehicles than ever before. They are much less likely to walk to school, the bus stop or the park. They don't ride their bike to get to the pool or jog to the local ballpark.

With the ever-increasing problem of childhood obesity, Purdue Extension Health and Human Sciences Educator Peggy Davis teamed up with Donna Owens, Purdue Extension Family Nutrition Program Assistant to tackle the problem.

In conjunction with Clay Community Schools, the two visited every fourth- and fifth-grade classroom in the school system. The goal was to teach all the students about healthy eating. Through the use of the Food Pyramid and examples of fresh fruit, vegetables, grains and pastas, David and Owens told the story of how healthy eating can improve their life as well as make it longer. With hands-on learning, the students were able to understand the important concepts and how to apply them to their lives.

After participating, each student was given a healthy snack to eat and many of the students were amazed at how good healthy food could be.

For this and other programs, most of which are free, contact the Clay County Extension Office at 448-9041.

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