The Partnership for a Healthier America recently released its first report on the progress of private sector commitments to address the epidemic of childhood obesity.
PHS works with the private sector and Honorary Chair First Lady Michelle Obama to ensure that future generations don’t face such problems with the disease.
During PHS’ second Building a Healthier Future Summit in Washington, D.C., leaders from public and private sectors came together to work on obesity solutions.
“Our partner organizations are making changes to their operations and their business practices that help make healthier choices easier for busier parents and families,” PHA CEO Lawrance Soler said. “This report is about holding a mirror up to efforts against those commitments — many of which are multi-year — and giving the public a clear understanding of their progress.”
Some of the companies involved in the fight against childhood obesity include Birds Eye, which teamed up with Nickelodeon in asking children to share recipes. Darden restaurants — which include Red Lobster and Olive Garden, among others — now offer at least one children’s menu item that is less than 600 calories, with less fat and sodium than typical restaurant fares. Fruits or vegetables and 1 percent milk are now defaulted side items.
Other information found in the report includes more than 1,700 cities that offered physical activity promotion events in 2012. The city of Burleson, for example, has its Be Healthy Initiative, which sponsors walks, runs, family-friendly fitness events and the upcoming Family Field Day on March 23.
Cities getting involved helped nearly 3 million kids get moving in 2012, the report said.
In Cleburne’s public sector other efforts are being made to combat childhood obesity.
Cleburne ISD schools follow USDA guidelines and make sure each student has a fruit or vegetable on their tray at lunch.
“Recently our district was approved for the 6 cents certification which means we are meeting all of the new regulations by USDA,” Kim Chance, CISD child nutrition director said. “We’ve had to submit reports, menus and everything we do in our district. We’re on task with everything that they are requesting of us, meaning whole grains, fruits and veggies.”
Chance said the required changes seem to have made children more aware of what they put on their plate.
“Kids are asking spinach to be put on their tray,” she said. “It has really surprised me, where in the past, we would put it in the menu and pretty much throw it all away. We have fresh and frozen spinach that they serve and they are really eating it now. It’s a matter of encouraging them.”
Chance said the district is also working with Dairy MAX, a nonprofit dairy council to start a healthy living pilot program at Smith Middle School. She said she hopes the initiative will take off district wide in the coming months. Schools involved in the Dairy MAX program receive $4,000 split between physical activity and nutrition, she said.
After-school program Youth in Motion, held at Booker T. Washington Community and Recreation Center, is also helping students change their eating and exercise habits.
Heather Bickell, recreation coordinator, said the program has grown to nearly 30 children and more enroll each day. The free program teaches students various ways to exercise, eat and also includes homework help.
“They are more eager to be active when they get here,” Bickell said. “They realize that exercise doesn’t have to be boring, it can be fun.
“A lot of parents will bring their kids and maybe stay and work out while their kids are here. In that regard, I think it’s spreading into the families.”
The program is on a spring break hiatus but starts up again next week. For more information, call 817-556-8858.