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Easton Fights Obesity With Healthy Choices

EASTON, Conn. – With more than 25 percent of Connecticut’s children between the ages of 10 and 17 qualifying as obese, Easton schools are working to provide healthy options and allowing parents to track what food their children buy at school.

On average, American school children will eat more than 2,300 lunches during their primary and secondary educations. If they are opting into school lunch programs, what the school district serves dictates much of their long-term nutrition.

The Easton school system uses a POS system in each building, which allows parents to pay for school food and enables them to keep track of their child’s account balance as well as monitor their child’s spending and see exactly what he or she is eating each day, according to the school’s website.

“I wish parents would take a good hard look at what their kids are eating before running to the doctor for drugs. That includes taking a look at what kids are eating in school. And I don't mean reading the menu. When we teach kids from a very early age to eat real food they develop a preference for it,” Amy Kalafa of Weston said in an email to The Daily Easton. She reported in her book, “Lunch Wars,” that students who eat school meals don’t perform as well in class and have a higher percentage of obesity. In Easton, there isn’t as much obesity as in other parts of the country, but many kids take daily medication for chronic illnesses as well as emotional and behavioral issues, Kalafa said.

Chartwells Food Service offers Easton students meals that contain five components: meat or a meat alternative, grain, two fruit or vegetable servings and milk, Chartwells stated in a newsletter. Any child can refuse two components and still pay the school lunch price. Parents are asked to remind their kids to take a piece of fruit, a vegetable and milk with each meal. A registered dietician evaluates the meals. Bread, grains and pizza offered to Easton students are all made from whole grains and fat free and low fat milk served is from cows certified to be free of the artificial growth hormones rGBH/rBST. Reduced fat cheese and organic low-fat yogurt are also offered. No fried foods are served.

“Parents need to look at the ingredients of the many, many processed items that their kids eat every day, in the cafeteria, the classroom and at home,” said Kalafa. “Kids and families need to learn how to switch to a diet of real, whole, fresh foods; this is an educational issue and our schools can and should play an important role.”

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, overweight and obese kids are at increased risk of multiple health problems, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and fatty liver disease. And this is to say nothing of the potential psychological effects of being an overweight child. Additionally, the CDC finds that children who are overweight are more likely to become overweight or obese adults.

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