By Abby Hallford
We all know the facts: Childhood obesity is a growing problem. According to some studies, an estimated 17 percent of children ages 2 to 19 are obese. Those children are sitting in our classrooms.
Their health affects how they do in school, academically and socially. At least one study has shown that overweight children were absent from school significantly more than normal-weight children. Obese children also may be at risk for social discrimination. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the stress of social stigmatization can cause low self-esteem which, in turn, can hurt academic and social functioning and persist into adulthood.
Schools are logical places to start combating the problem. Educators and school leaders have the skills and expertise as well as connections to their families and community. In the fifth- and sixth-grade center at Jenks West Intermediate School in Oklahoma’s Jenks Public Schools, our site committee developed a schoolwide “healthy and fit” initiative. Called “Let’s Do Lunch,” it was developed to address childhood obesity in various ways.
The program started with our Safe and Drug-Free Schools Committee, made up of parents, students, teachers, the child nutrition manager, the physical education teacher, the school counselor, and the site principal.
Using the same committee members to put the healthy and fit initiative into place worked for us. Each had similar missions that complemented one another and reduced the need for more meetings. It was important to involve all sectors of the school community in the decision-making. Teachers, students, parents, health care providers, and child nutrition workers all provided their perspective and expertise.