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The war is on against childhood obesity at Spencer County Elementary School.
The school has received a second grant from the national Fuel Up to Play 60 program, sponsored by the National Dairy Council and the National Football League, in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“Play 60” is the NFL’s program that uses an interactive website to encourage children to engage in 60 minutes of physical activity each day. “Fuel Up” is an additional component that promotes good eating habits to round out a more health-oriented lifestyle for children.
Studies show that Kentucky has one of the highest percentages of overweight and obese children and adolescents nationwide, and Spencer County is no exception.
“The state numbers are not good at all,” said SCES school nurse Cindy Hayes, R.N. And while Spencer County doesn’t have the worst rate of childhood obesity in the state, the numbers here “are not good,” either, she said.
All SCES students were assessed during the 2011-12 school year to determine each child’s body mass index, based on a program offered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
The results showed percentages increased dramatically from kindergarten to fifth grade.
In a letter sent out to parents at the end of last year, a chart showed that 22 percent of kindergartners fell into the overweight-to-obese category and another 9 percent were obese, for a total of 31 percent.
That total jumps to 64 percent for first-graders (42 percent overweight, 22 percent obese) and dips back to 47 percent for second-graders (34 percent overweight, 13 percent obese) and 57 percent for third-graders (37 percent overweight, 20 percent obese). But the number skyrockets for the older children: 74 percent of fourth-graders were overweight or obese (51 percent overweight, 23 percent obese) and 77 percent of fifth-graders were overweight or obese (47 percent overweight, 30 percent obese.)
On Nov. 19, the SCES Wellness and Safety Committee used its first $2,000 grant to host an afterschool event, which targeted families of students in third through fifth grade, Hayes said.
The students, their parents or guardians and their siblings circulated through several stations that focused on different components of the Play 60 program. At one station, they were given ideas for getting exercise using everyday items, such as using canned goods for free weights, Hayes said.
In the cafeteria, participants were treated to a taste testing of fruit smoothies, snacks of hummus and carrots, and black-bean salsa.
There were games to teach about heart disease and diabetes, as well as health screenings for the entire family, Hayes added.
The committee reapplied for the grant, which Hayes said will fund a similar event May 2 for students in kindergarten through second grade and their families at the school. Prizes will be awarded, including basketballs, hoola hoops, yoga mats and other items intended to promote fun family activities at home, Hayes said.
Some of the grant money, too, will be used to buy an industrial-sized smoothie maker that can make up to one gallon of smoothies made with yogurt, milk and fresh fruit, according to state school nutrition standards, Hayes said.
The school is working hard to get students active during the school day, too, she added. All fifth-graders have been registered for the Fuel Up website, where they can participate in activities and challenges, and possibly win prizes while they learn about the importance of eating better foods and exercising more.
For more information about the SCES Wellness and Safety Committee or the upcoming Fuel 60 program, call Hayes at 477-6950.
For more information about the Fuel Up and Play 60 programs, log onto www.fueluptoplay60.com or www.nfl.com/play60.