Tag Archives: Childhood Obesity

Healthy Eating: A Key Ingredient to Education

Healthy eating is essential to a child’s proper growth and development. Good eating habits are hard to come by these days, as evidenced by the fact that one-third of school-age children in the U.S. are overweight or obese. Many children also struggle with the opposite problem, not having enough to eat, and their limited food choices are often unhealthy.

Passionate about the issues of childhood obesity and poor nutrition, Chef Marc Vetri and his business partner, Jeff Benjamin, established the Vetri Foundation for Children (VFFC) in 2008. Their vision: Children who have healthy bodies and healthy minds have the opportunity to create healthy lives for themselves.

The Foundation is known for its Eatiquette program, a method for school lunch that centers on an interactive, family style environment. The program uses round tables to promote conversation and real silverware to create a true dining experience. At the beginning of the meal, the chef announces the menu to everyone, including what ingredients he used and how the food was prepared. Table captains, who rotate weekly, are in charge of bringing family-style portions of food to their table, as well as clearing dirty dishes after the meal. Captains – dressed in a special chef’s coat – also encourage their friends to try new foods. All the children help with clean up. After being nourished both in mind and body, the students are ready for whatever challenges the rest of the day holds.

Watch this video to see Eatiquette in action:

To read more about the Foundation and to find out how to bring the Eatiquette program to your school, visit www.vetrifoundation.org.

Do you think the Eatiquette program would benefit your school? Why or why not?

Growing to Learn and Learning to Grow

The correlation between childhood obesity and poverty is easy to make. Junk food is cheap. Organic and healthy food is usually not. When parents are struggling to pay bills, they often have to sacrifice nutrition for price. Unfortunately when children go to school the choices don’t improve. Vending machines are filled with sugary sodas and potato chips, and many school lunches still don’t pass the healthy challenge.

But now the FoodCorps movement is growing, and with it, hope that the younger generation can reverse the troubling trend of obesity. FoodCorps provides a hands-on approach to educating our children about healthy eating. Through Service Members, this grassroots organization teaches nutrition, sets up school gardens, and puts healthy, local food back into school lunches. Students from participating schools work together to grow their own garden and learn about nutrition, exercise and the local food system. The theory is that if a child grows their own food, they’ll be more likely to eat it.

The educational and health benefits of incorporating a school garden are endless:

  • Health and Nutrition – How does the body use healthy foods? What vitamins, minerals and antioxidants are in the fruits and vegetables grown, and what function do they serve? In contrast, what happens when salts, sugars and processed foods are put into the body?
  • Botany and Science – How do seeds grow? What is germination? How do you determine the amount of soil, sun and rain needed? How do insects help or harm the growth process?
  • Business and Financial – How do farmers determine price to make a profit? What is the best way to plan your crop yield, based on demand? How do plan for lost profits due to drought, flood or disease?
  • Teamwork and Collaboration – What is the best way to divide and conquer responsibilities? How can you produce a higher crop yield through specialized jobs?

There’s a good chance that FoodCorps will be coming to a school near you. The organization hopes to have 1,000 service members in all 50 states by the year 2020. For more information, visit www.foodcorps.org.

You Are What You Eat – Improving School Cafeterias

With childhood obesity on the rise, schools and organizations are looking for more nutritional options for kids in the lunchroom.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 12.5 million American children ages 2 to 17 are obese, a number that has almost tripled since 1980. Obese children account for 17 percent of all children in that age range. The main factors in this disturbing trend are pretty obvious – less exercise and poor nutritional choices for many kids.

While schools can’t change how kids eat at home, they can make a difference by offering healthier choices in the cafeteria. Some schools, like those in Greeley, Colorado, are going back to the basics when preparing lunches. Instead of prepackaged menu items (think frozen pizzas squares and chicken nuggets), the cooks will be making 75 percent of cafeteria offerings from scratch, with hopes of having that number at 100 percent by the end of the school year.

“We’re teaching kids how to eat again,” Elida Martinez, a kitchen worker in the Greeley school district, said in a recent New York Times article.

First Lady Michelle Obama has also made children’s nutrition a priority. Her Let’s Move! initiative aims to add salad bars to schools across the country. With a large selection of fresh fruits and vegetables in a salad bar, the hope is that more children will make healthier nutritional decisions.

What do you think of your school’s lunchroom offerings? How could they be improved?

Potato Chips: Out, Healthy Snacks: In

Next year, millions of elementary school children will be munching on fresh fruit and vegetables as part of an expanded U.S. Department of Agriculture program. Under the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, each student in selected low-income elementary schools will receive $50 to $75 worth of fresh produce throughout the school year.

The program was funded under the National School Lunch Act and expanded in 2008 as a result of the Farm Bill. It has been successful so far. “Children are learning fruits and vegetables are healthy choices and tasty alternatives to snacks high in fat, sugar, or salt,” said Kevin Concannon, Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services.

The program is part of a broader effort to curb childhood obesity, which has more than tripled in the past 30 years. Do your part by encouraging kids to eat healthy at home and at school.

Try these fun and nutritious snack recipes from allrecipes.com:

Fruit Kabobs: Stick melon balls, berries, pineapple chunks, and cubed peaches, pears or apples onto toothpicks.

Mini Sandwiches: Use crackers or give the kids a few slices of bread, lunch meat, and cheese, and a couple of miniature cookie cutters to make tiny, fun-shaped sandwiches.

English Muffin Pizzas: Use half an English muffin as a pizza crust. Smear on a bit of bottled tomato sauce, add a light sprinkle of low-fat mozzarella cheese, and then top with chopped vegetables. Heat for a few minutes in the toaster oven or microwave.

Yogurt Parfait: Mash up some bananas or berries with a fork and mix with low-fat yogurt. Sprinkle with granola.

Ants on a Log: Cut celery stalks in half. Spread with peanut butter. Sprinkle with raisins.

Ants on a Log