Lowering the high childhood obesity rates around the nation has become a leading goal among parents, educators and legislators. Arkansas is one of 13 states where childhood obesity levels are predicted to reach more than 60 percent by 2030, though not if local groups have anything to say about it, reports 5 News.
Health officials across the state are viewing that statistic as a wake up call and are now trying diligently to make changes that could help kids follow better lifestyle habits. The Healthy Cooking and Gardening program at Owl Creek School in Fayetteville, Arkansas, is one of many that are looking to use hands-on lessons to teach children what it takes to eat right. The program, run through Americorps, has students participate in making a garden, caring for the produce and then using the fruits of their labor to create tasty and healthy meals.
Kelly Eubanks, the chef for the healthy kids
cooking club at Owl Creek believes the program gives kids a chance to see where food comes from and learn how certain options help their bodies grow strong and healthy. Eubanks adds some parents in the region are learning about what foods to cook for their families based on the information their kids are bringing home.
Through the in-school initiative, kids spend part of their week picking fresh produce from the school garden and then work with chefs to make meals to share with their classes. The vegetables they can't grow on site come from a farm-to-school program offered in the area, Sammi Jones, the Arkansas Energy Corps member for the Fayetteville School District, told the news source. Jones added the school has also been making changes to its traditional lunches to help kids make healthier decisions.
"There's only low and nonfat milk offered at lunch," Jones told the news channel. "Students are offered a wide variety of fruits and vegetables and they have to take at least a half cup serving of fruits and vegetables every day at lunch."
The USDA's MyPlate regulations stipulate that youngsters' plates need to consist of one-half fruits and vegetable, a quarter lean meats and a quarter of whole grains. The serving size for fruits and vegetables is one cup of each, while grains and meats should each equal an ounce at each meal.
Eating well is only half the battle against childhood obesity, however. Exercising is also crucial in reducing the ratings. Parents can promote physical activity by letting their kids use commercial playground equipment
or by signing them up for sports.