Obesity focus of health education

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 22, 2004

With much of the health community’s focus turning to obesity,

there has been increased attention around the eating habits of youth around the country.

This week marked the annual Health Education Week sponsored by The National Center for Health Education and the Society for Public Health Educators, and the theme is “Every Bite Counts”.

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According to both groups, the growing prevalence of obesity in the U.S. represents a significant health threat to millions of Americans. They suggest a solution to the “rising epidemic” is working to make healthy eating a life long habit for children.

In Selma, efforts are being made to see that children and families are eating healthier every day.

Rebecca Stewart, Registered Dietitian for the Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) program at the Dallas County Health Department said that they require participants to take a nutrition class when they enroll.

“We encourage parents to lead the way and be role models by eating fresh fruits for snacks and vegetables with every meal,” said Stewart.

“When they do go out to eat, we ask that they make better choices like instead of fries choose fruit or instead of soda choose low-fat milk.”

Selma City Schools is also making efforts to bring the idea of healthy eating and nutrition to students.

According to Smiley Kirkpatrick, Nutritionist for Selma City Schools, her office worked on the school menus all summer in an effort to reduce the fat from the recipes.

Kirkpatrick said they even utilized a computer program called “NutraKids” to help with the process.

“The federal government requires less than 30 percent fat in school meals,” she said. “So we began what is called a ‘school meal initiative’ where we concentrate on reducing things like saturated fats and salt from the menu and keeping the calories at a third of what students should have.”

Kirkpatrick said her office makes sure that every school has nutritious meals, however the challenge she faces is getting the students to take what is provided for them.

“We sell snacks to the students to raise the money to keep our staff paid because we are a non-profit,” said Kilpatrick. “But we have cut way back on snacks that are not as nutritious.”