Childhood obesity is a serious and troubling issue for educators, schools, and parents—one that is getting attention at the national level from the First Lady, from state programs, and through local efforts.
According to the CDC, an estimated 16.9 percent of children are obese. The percentage of children ages 12-19 who are obese has increased from 4.6 percent in 1963 to 18.1 percent in 2008. Obese children are more likely to have conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and fatty liver disease. Later in life, obesity is linked to increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, strokes, certain cancers, and other health problems.
Maryland schools are moving towards healthier and locally grown food for school lunches. The Maryland Farm to School project puts kids in touch with their local farms and provides fresh produce for school lunches. See the project Facebook page to learn more.
In 2011-2012, over 100 Maryland elementary schools will participate in the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program.
Look for Maryland Homegrown School Lunch Week the third full week in September. Schools will partner with local farmers, who provide fresh foods, as well as instruction and hands-on activities so that students can learn about sustainability, what foods grow locally, and how farming works.
In 2010, Congress passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act to provide funds to schools for healthy meal plans, increasing kids’ participation in school meal programs, increasing access to drinking water, and more. Read more from NEA.
Schools in Maryland are making an effort to creatively incorporate physical activity into the curriculum. In Frederick’s Orchard Grove Elementary School, educators created a running program called the mileage club. Kids love the program; discipline problems are dropping and test scores are rising. And in May 2011, the school won a $25,000 grant to build a running track. Read more from the Washington Post.
October 5, 2011, is International Walk to School Day, a day focused on increasing physical activity for kids and families and making neighborhoods more walkable. Why not start a Walk to School event in your school?
First Lady Michelle Obama has taken on childhood obesity with her Let’s Move! campaign. It encourages schools to create a healthy workplace, plant a garden, and increase physical activity. Download a teacher toolkit to learn about steps you can take in your classroom, like creating a school cookbook of healthy recipes, planting an herb garden, and incorporating physical activity into your lessons. Also, consult the school action plan to learn about creating a school health advisory council, joining the healthier U.S. Schools Challenge, and more. Or check out the Chefs Move to Schools program. It partners chefs with schools to work together to bring healthy food and nutrition education to students. Learn how your school can sign up to partner with a local chef.
NEA and MSEA efforts
NEA and the NEA Health Information Network (HIN) were founding members of the 2002 Healthy Schools Summit that put into action the public schools portion of the Surgeon General’s Call to Action on Overweight and Obesity.
And veteran P.E. teachers Yvonne Baicich and Terry Borneman took action on the issue when they successfully presented a New Business Item on childhood obesity prevention at MSEA’s 2008 Representative Assembly.
“We wanted to be sure that the significance of childhood obesity is understood by our locals and their boards of education so that action can be taken,” Baicich said. “It is our responsibility to use [school] time to nurture them in mind and body so they can safely, and in good health, enjoy their childhood. Anything less is under serving our students.”