Leon County Schools Work To Help Kids Fight Obesity

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Leon County School administrators are working to help kids fight obesity with new wellness programs. The programs include more activity and better food options.

Lunch time and recess are getting a makeover and rightfully so.
Nearly 20 percent of children in the U.S are overweight or obese and the statistics in Leon County are even more staggering.

"1/3 of our student population is at risk for developing Type 2 Diabetes because they are obese," said Sheila Costigan, Executive Director of the Foundation for Leon County schools.

So SHAC is changing things up. SHAC stands for School Health Advisory Council and part of SHAC's new plan is better food and more activity.

"I think this community will begin to see SHAC's name out there and will understand what we're trying to do for the next few months. It will make a difference in their lives," said Beverly Owens, Divisional Director of Special Programs.

First comes lunch. Leon County Schools now have fully functioning kitchens where more fresh ingredients can be used and food isn't simply being warmed.

"We'll have schools that will have more fresh fruits and vegetables, food items that have less sodium, we are looking at more whole grains and so the menus will change to incorporate more healthy food items," said Cathy Reed, Director of Nutrition Services for Leon Schools.

"If we can get them to come into our cafeterias and serve the food they like, but make it wholesome, then we stand a chance at helping them combat diabetes," said Costigan.

Part of the fight is getting kids up and active. Fitness tests aren't exactly a thing of the past but school workers are trying different ways of getting every child involved.

"We have a lot of initiatives going on pushing movement. We don't want to say physical fitness because some kids who are obese of course are challenged by that. So what we want to say is activity, any kind of wholesome activity," added Costigan.

"We try to focus on kids who wouldn't necessarily participate in physical activities, to go out there and have fun but at the same time participate in a organized activity that will develop them," said Owens.

Parents can help out! There is a 9-5-2-1-0 plan that every house can follow. It includes nine hours of sleep, five servings of fruits and veggies, two hours of TV or computer time, at least one hour of physical activity and zero sugary drinks, alcohol or tobacco.

The efforts to make kids healthier are steadily changing and school administrators are hoping the obesity statistics will too.

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