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Third article in series on childhood obesity

December 20, 2010

Note: This is the third article in a four-part series on Childhood Obesity presented by the Pottstown Area Health & Wellness Foundation. Corresponding Webisodes are available for viewing on www.missionhealthyliving.org.

CHILDHOOD OBESITY: WHAT ARE SCHOOLS DOING ON A

STATE AND LOCAL LEVEL TO FIGHT THE EPIDEMIC?

By: Dave Kraybill, Executive Director, Pottstown Area Health & Wellness Foundation

Back in 2004, The Child Nutrition and Women, Infants and Children Reauthorization Act required that all education agencies develop wellness policies to address childhood obesity by the start of the 2006-2007 school year. Districts nationwide had to create at least one goal to improve wellness in the following categories: nutrition education, physical activity, availability of nutrition guidelines to students, and other school-based activities to address student wellness.

“Pennsylvania was one of the few states that actually collected and analyzed plans to ensure they addressed this problem of childhood obesity,” said Elaine McDonnell, projects coordinator, Project PA. “If school districts [in Pennsylvania] sent goals that did not meet state standards, the schools had to rework those plans.” Project PA was a collaboration between Penn State University’s Department of Nutritional Sciences and the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Division of Food and Nutrition. The team partnered with schools and their communities to provide sound nutrition education and to promote children’s healthy eating behaviors.

Pennsylvania school districts set goals and improved snacks and a la carte offerings to meet this required federal legislation for reducing childhood obesity. The state’s multi-faceted approach included mandatory training sessions for all school food service directors and financial incentives to schools that adopted state-created nutrient standards for the a la carte food items offered at the school. Ultimately, nearly all school districts worked with the state to formulate plans that would target obesity in some way. While Pennsylvania schools addressed and improved the food available through vending machines and a la carte offerings, they still were missing opportunities for physical activity, which did not improve.

A recent White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity Report to the President, Solving the Problem of Childhood Obesity Within a Generation, released some startling information—childhood obesity has become an epidemic in America and it is now considered a national health crisis. The report presents a series of specific recommendations, two of which involve school involvement—providing healthy food in schools and getting children more physically active through physical education, recess and other after-school opportunities.

Currently, the Pennsylvania Department of Education has new legislation in draft form under Chapter 12 that, if passed, will require schools to establish and maintain wellness committees to assess, plan and implement, monitor district and school health and wellness policies and programs. This will include setting up goals and measuring success in the areas of nutrition and physical education at the elementary, middle and high school levels.

What Are Our Local Schools Doing?

The local school districts have been involved in addressing childhood obesity on a state level for many years. However, the local schools in Pottstown and those within a 10-mile radius have another advantage that most schools in Pennsylvania, even the nation, don’t have—grant funding available through a Foundation.

The Pottstown Area Health & Wellness Foundation provides grants, programs and educational resources to the Pottstown Area to enhance the health and wellness of area residents—but that did not include giving grants to schools in the very beginning.

“Initially, we weren’t sure if we should fund a public entity,” comments Sharon Weaver, Board President, Pottstown Area Health & Wellness Foundation. “But, we soon realized that schools could be instrumental in furthering our vision.  All school districts, public and private, have initiated creative programs that continue to directly hit one of our target audiences—children.”

“We as a community have been very fortunate that our area school districts have embraced health and wellness, which includes addressing the problem of childhood obesity,” remarks Dave Kraybill, Executive Director, Pottstown Area Health & Wellness Foundation. “The schools have consistently and creatively submitted grant requests for programs and projects that have been effective and well received by the students, teachers, parents and community. We thank them for their continued efforts and dedication to improving the health and wellness of our youth.”

There are many area schools using grants from the Foundation to improve the health and wellness of students. For more information about the programs offered for students and parents, please go to the school’s website.

School: Boyertown

Grants: Healthy Hearts and Minds, Revise Recess

For More Information: http://www.boyertownasd.org

School: Daniel Boone

Grants: Healthy for a Lifetime

For More Information: http://www.dboone.k12.pa.us

School: Owen J. Roberts

Grants: Fit for Life

For More Information: http://www.ojrsd.com

School: Perkiomen Valley

Grants: Creating Healthy Opportunities for Students, Comprehensive Adolescent Fitness Program

For More Information: http://www.pvsd.org

School: Pottsgrove

Grants: Wellness Center Project, Walk4Life, Dance Dance Revolution, SNAP, Five for Life Program, SNAP Academy

For More Information: http://www.pgsd.org

School: Pottstown

Grants: Safe Schools/Healthy Students, Healthy Snack Program, CATCH Kids Club

For More Information: http://www.pottstownschools.com

School: Spring-Ford Area

Grant: Healthy Choices Project

For More Information: http://www.pvsd.org

School: Blessed Theresa of Calcutta School, Schwenksville

Grant: Gymnasium Building Project for students K through 8

For More Information: http://www.blteresacalcutta.com

School: Coventry Christian School

Grant: Nutrition Curriculum Enhancement

For More Information: http://www.coventrychristian.com

School: Perkiomen Valley Academy

Grant: H.E.A.L. – Health & Emotional Alternatives for Life

For More Information: http://www.pvsd.org

School: Sacred Heart School, Royersford

Grant: Health and Wellness

For More Information: http://parish.sacredheartroyersford.org

School: St. Aloysius School

Grant: Fitness, One Step at a Time

For More Information: http://www.saintaloysius.net

School: West-Mont Christian Academy

Grant: Fitness Training Room, Healthy Snack Program, Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Program

For More Information: http://www.west-mont.org

About the Series – Childhood Obesity This four-part article series was developed by the Pottstown Area Health & Wellness Foundation. Corresponding Webisodes featuring local experts can be found on http://www.missionhealthyliving.org. The first article discusses how childhood obesity has become a national epidemic. The second article discusses the risks, warning signs and long-term effects of childhood obesity. The final article will focus on what parents and children can do to start to change their habits, lose weight and live healthier lives.

About the Foundation The Pottstown Area Health & Wellness Foundation’s mission is to enhance the health and wellness of area residents, providing education, funding and programs that motivate people to adopt healthy lifestyles. Visit www.pottstownfoundation.org for more information about the Foundation. Discover Pottstown area’s new online community at http://www.missionhealthyliving.org to learn and share great information on how to lead a healthier life!


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