Our View: School plan a healthy one | CraigDailyPress.com

Our View: School plan a healthy one

Outside of its core curriculum, health and nutrition may be the most important thing the Moffat County School District teaches its students.

At least that’s Assistant Superintendent Joel Sheridan’s view. We’re inclinded to agree and we’re excited about the Moffat County School District’s ambitious plan to bring healthy living concepts into the schools.

Most people have probably heard that Americans are raising the most overweight and out-of-shape generation of children in history.

Even in Colorado, which has traditionally enjoyed being one of the “fittest” states in the nation, the obesity epidemic is starting to show.

“We used to be the only state that didn’t have greater than 30 percent of its population obese,” said Elisa Shackelton, the Moffat County CSU family consumer sciences agent. “We lost that in 2002. We’re not getting as fat as fast as the rest of the country, but it’s definitely an issue, and I’m glad to see the school district is going to do something.”

Moffat County is one of the fattest counties in Colorado. A county-by-county comparison of obesity prevalence showed Moffat County leading the state in percentage of overweight adults between 1993 and 1997. The color-coded map was recently published in West Virginia University Alumni Magazine.

Four Craig Middle School teachers wanted to do something to address the problem. They submitted a curriculum that combines lessons in nutrition, exercise and healthy lifestyles.

Unfortunately, it will take funding to get it off the ground. The district applied for a U.S. Department of Education grant, which was denied, because the district couldn’t provide matching funds.

The school district is considering turning to the community for support. Team members will approach local businesses to see whether they’d be willing to purchase, or partner with another business to purchase, a piece of industrial-grade cardiovascular equipment — stair stepper, treadmill or elliptical machine.

Hopefully, the community will see the value in making the equipment available. It will cost money, but this an effort the community can support even without money. Parents can get involved. It doesn’t cost anything to take a walk with children after dinner or on a Saturday.

That’s Shackelton’s hope. “We need to do something to pull together and support each other,” she said. “We need to find a way to make fitness cool.”

If the district can acquire the equipment, the program will start at the fifth-grade level and eventually expand to the high school level.

A student’s blood pressure and body fat percentage will be tracked throughout their school career through the program.

Shackelton thinks the schools are a great starting point because lessons learned in childhood tend to stick with people for a lifetime. But she is curious to learn more about the curriculum and hopes that the district considers improving the school lunch program, which she thinks could make the biggest impact in creating healthier lifestyles.

No matter what the district’s approach is, we’re convinced it’s a step in the right direction. But we remind parents that the schools can only do so much. Ultimately, children will take their cues from parents and family members about diet and exercise.

The medical experts at The Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital recommend the following tips to help parents promote healthy nutrition and fitness attitudes and behaviors:

n Support your child by working toward healthy eating and exercise habits for the entire family.

n Eliminate unhealthy foods from your household rather than singling out your child and prohibiting her from eating them.

n Keep healthy snacks in a place where your child can easily get to them.

n Make time to exercise with your child.

n Limit TV and computer time for the whole family.

n Don’t eat in front of the TV.

n Limit how often fried and high-fat convenience foods are served.

n Don’t punish or scold your child about how much he does or doesn’t do to get his weight under control — use positive reinforcement instead.

n Make physical activity fun and rewarding.

With the school district trying to make health and nutrition a focus, perhaps it will help parents understand why it’s an important issue with lifelong benefits.

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