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|School launches nutrition program|
A kit of educational and fun activities that addresses the issue of childhood obesity proved to be a big hit at its inaugural use during Family Nutrition Night Feb. 10 at Central Elementary School in Calhoun.
LSU AgCenter extension agents developed the kit and are promoting its use across northeast Louisiana.
The hour-and-a-half program included six stations where children spent 10 minutes doing hands-on activities, including Start Your Day the Right Way, the Lowdown on Snacks, Right-Size Your Portions, Re-Think Your Drink, Let's Get Physical and an opportunity to measure their height, weight, blood pressure and body mass index.
Two teachers who lost a total of 210 pounds by eating correctly and exercising staffed the physical activity station.
"Breakfast is important because you spent the whole night with no fuel," teacher Jennifer Willis told the 60 third- through fifth-grade students and parents who participated.
Part of the lessons included visual tips on correct food portions, displays of how much sugar is in soft drinks and examples of games that can be played indoors.
If current trends continue through 2020, treating the consequences of obesity will consume a large amount of the nation's health care expenditures, said Terri Crawford, extension agent and one of the creators of the kit.
"A child with a healthy lifestyle is more likely to be an adult with a healthy lifestyle," said Cathy Agan, another LSU AgCenter agent who helped develop this program. "They will be at less risk for heart disease and diabetes."
Studies show that healthy children pay attention and do much better in school, Agan said. "They fight off infections better."
On-the-go eating can be high in sugar, fat and sodium and cause weight gain, she said.
Agan discussed MyPyramid, a U.S. Department of Agriculture food guidance system that teaches about the variety and correct portions of various food groups.
"We encourage gradual improvement," she said. "Small changes make a big difference."
Agan said children need 60 minutes of exercise a day, but it doesn't have to be "in one chunk of time." She suggested taking the stairs, doing yard work and helping with housework as ways to burn calories.
Deborah Hamby, who is a 4-H volunteer and the math coordinator, said she wanted the program at the school because it was a new idea that was "all fixed for us." Teachers received the kits a week ahead to prepare.
As a bonus, those who attended received a free night with no homework in one subject.
Hamby said the event allowed the students and their parents to get to know their teachers better. She plans to share the idea with other teachers in the parish.
"We hope a lot of schools will want to host a family nutrition night soon," Agan said.
To schedule a Family Nutrition Night at a school, people may contact Terri Crawford at (318) 435-2903 or email@example.com or Cathy Agan at (318) 323-2251 or firstname.lastname@example.org.