Getting fit in Selma schools

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 15, 2004

The Selma City School System began its Nutrition, Exercise, and Wellness Study on Tuesday with a series of workshops involving teachers and administrators from four of the system’s schools.

Superintendent Dr. James Carter said the study could eventually be used to change nutrition and fitness programs in public school systems across the state.

“When a child comes to school with an illness, especially diabetes, teachers cannot get much out of that child in terms of class work,” Carter said. “We need to fight the problem of obesity. It’s going to be a lot of work, but we are going to make an effort.”

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Teachers and administrators from Sophia P. Kingston Elementary, School of Discovery Genesis Center, Payne Elementary School, and Selma Middle CHAT Academy met with a nutritionist and the school system’s Child Nutrition Program coordinator to discuss how to help students and parents become more health-conscience.

“We have to do something to effect a change in the well being of the boys and girls in the Selma City School System,” Carter said.

The school system is partnering with the Alabama Senate, the State Department of Agriculture and Industries, the City of Selma, and Wallace Community College Selma.

Mayor James Perkins, who attended the opening session of the workshop, said health care and health education was “not on my radar screen” during his last administration, but it has now become one of his priorities.

“There is not a single African-American here who has not been affected in some way by diabetes,” Perkins said. “The significance it has in healthcare is astounding. We have to make a change.”

Miriam Gaines, director of the nutrition and physical activity unit with the Alabama Department of Public Health, said one in every four adults in Alabama is overweight, causing the state to have the highest obesity rate in the country.

More specifically, Cater pointed out, Dallas County has the highest obesity rate in Alabama.

“If a child is overweight as a seven-year-old, it is likely that child will remain overweight,” Gaines said. “If a 14-year-old is overweight, it is likely they are going to remain overweight as an adult.”

She further added that Type Two diabetes is now common among children in the fourth-grade.

“We need to reduce time in front of the TV and other sitting activities and build physical activity into our children’s regular routine,” she said.

Gaines also said the school system should reduce the amount of fried foods it serves students, instead focusing more on fruits, vegetables and baked foods.

Carter said the four schools involved in the its Nutrition, Exercise, and Wellness Study will be involved in either a study group or a controlled group.