Schools must provide quality food and nutrition education

Schools must provide quality food and nutrition education

When going back to school, one of the top concerns for parents is making sure their kids get a healthy lunch. A new state report found that an alarming number of school-age children in Oklahoma are obese.|MORE| Oklahoma leaders unveil plan to help state’s obesity challenges As school leaders work to bring those numbers down, what role do schools play in student health? Oklahoma is at the top of a list no one wants to be on. The state Department of Health said Oklahoma has the ninth highest prevalence of obesity in the United States. One in five children in Oklahoma between the ages of 10 and 17 is considered obese. “It’s very concerning that Oklahoma is one of the top obese states,” said Dr. Jeanie Tryggestad from OU Children’s Hospital. The pediatric endocrinology specialist said obese children are more likely to become obese adults for other health problems as well,” she said. |MORE| Partners with the Urban League of Greater OKC to help children affected by food insecurity. As a result, the state said obesity and related medical conditions have contributed to over $1 billion in medical costs a year in Oklahoma. “We know that we have a very big obesity problem in Oklahoma,” Tryggestad said. Among them: poor nutrition. Only 20% of children in Oklahoma eat two or more servings of fruit a day. As for vegetables, only 9% of kids in the state eat three or more servings a day. Tryggestad said too many high-calorie drinks also contribute. “We want to try to reduce sugary drinks in particular,” she said. The study states that children simply aren’t active enough, with only 29% being physically active for at least 60 minutes a day. “Sometimes we lull ourselves into thinking that at school we’re in physical education and that’s good enough,” she said. “But that’s not good enough. Really and honestly, this is not the hour of physical activity. We want to be sure we’re physically active that hour every day.” A key focus of the government study is finding ways to invert the statistic. The goal is to reduce childhood obesity by 3% over the next four years. For school-age children, the health department wants to improve access to free and discounted meals, as well as the number of physical activities students participate in during school. This includes a guaranteed break. Oklahoma City public schools said the district follows federal healthy eating guidelines Superintendents for School Nutrition Services. The district said it is providing students with choices about what to eat, with the goal of helping them learn what goes into their bodies. “In that moment, they’re learning the basics of nutrition that they’ll take with them for the rest of their lives so they can be adults who know how to make healthy choices,” she said. For some children, the meal they get at school is the only meal they get. “It’s true that the school lunch we provide is the only healthy meal they get during the day,” she said of many students. When it comes to physical activity, some teachers take it upon themselves to help students. Lahna Vann, a sixth grade teacher at Mary Golda Ross Middle School, started a running club for younger students interested in the sport. “I have kids who come up to me on the first day of school and say, ‘When do we start? When can we start practicing?’” she said. Vann said this gets kids moving but also helps them build other foundations throughout their lives,” she said. She said other schools in the area have also started their own running clubs.|MORE| How to Save Money on School Supplies in OklahomaExperts say healthy habits start at home. The state recognizes that some of the causes of obesity are related to socio-environmental barriers such as where people live and their access to healthy food. But with children spending most of their days in school during the school year, it’s important that counties play a role in shaping the future of the state’s youth.

When going back to school, one of the top concerns for parents is making sure their kids get a healthy lunch.

A new state report found that an alarming number of school-age children in Oklahoma are obese.

|MORE| Oklahoma leaders unveil a plan to help the state’s obesity problems

As school leaders work to bring these numbers down, the question arises: What role do schools play in student health?

Oklahoma is at the top of a list no one wants to be on. The state Department of Health said Oklahoma has the ninth highest prevalence of obesity in the United States. One in five children in Oklahoma between the ages of 10 and 17 is considered obese.

“It’s very concerning that Oklahoma is one of the top obese states,” said Dr. Jeanie Tryggestad from OU Children’s Hospital.

The pediatric endocrinology specialist said obese children are more likely to become obese adults.

“We know that this also prepares us for other health problems,” she said.

|MORE| Urban League of Greater OKC partners to help children affected by food insecurity

Early obesity also increases a person’s risk of serious health problems throughout life, such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, some cancers, and depression. As a result, the state said obesity and related medical conditions have contributed to over $1 billion in medical costs a year in Oklahoma.

“In Oklahoma, we know we have a very big problem with obesity,” Tryggestad said.

The state found several contributing factors. Among them: poor nutrition. Only 20% of children in Oklahoma eat two or more servings of fruit a day. As for vegetables, only 9% of kids in the state eat three or more servings a day.

Tryggestad said too many high-calorie drinks also contribute.

“We want to try to reduce sugary drinks in particular,” she said.

The study states that children simply aren’t active enough, with only 29% being physically active for at least 60 minutes a day.

“Sometimes we lull ourselves into thinking that at school we’re in physical education and that’s good enough,” she said. “But that’s not good enough. Really and honestly, this is not the hour of physical activity. We want to be sure that we are physically active that hour every day.”

A key focus of the government study is finding ways to reverse the statistic. The goal is to reduce childhood obesity by 3% over the next four years. For school-age children, the health department wants to improve access to free and discounted meals, as well as the number of physical activities students participate in during school. This includes a guaranteed break.

Oklahoma City’s public schools said the district is following federal guidelines for healthy eating.

“We teach them from a young age what makes a healthy meal and we teach them how to balance,” said Annie Coker, district operations manager for school nutrition services.

The district said it is providing students with choices about what to eat, with the goal of helping them learn what goes into their bodies.

“In that moment, they’re learning the basics of nutrition that they’ll take with them for the rest of their lives so they can be adults who know how to make healthy choices,” she said.

For some children, the meal they get at school is the only meal they get.

“It’s true that the school lunches we provide are the only healthy meal they get during the day,” she said of many students.

When it comes to physical activity, some teachers take it upon themselves to help students.

Lahna Vann, a sixth grade teacher at Mary Golda Ross Middle School, started a running club for younger students interested in the sport.

“I have kids who come up to me on the first day of school and say, ‘When do we start? When can we start practicing?’” she said.

Vann said this gets kids moving but also helps them build other foundations.

“It helps kids not only gain muscle mass, but also confidence that they carry through the rest of the year and throughout their lives,” she said.

She said other schools in the area have also started their own running clubs.

|MORE| How to save money on school supplies in Oklahoma

Experts say healthy habits start at home. The state recognizes that some of the causes of obesity are related to socio-environmental barriers such as where people live and their access to healthy food.

But with children spending most of their days in school during the school year, it’s important that counties play a role in shaping the future of the state’s youth.

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