Before coming to this weight management clinic, 11-year-old Candido Garcia
was extremely overweight. Bad eating habits and lack of exercise were
the main culprits. "I would be eating pizza and snack food like donuts
and sweet stuff," Garcia said.
"He would go back for a second helping of food. We would go out about
two or three times a week. He wasn't very active at all, always wanted
to watch TV, play video games," said Darlene Garcia's mother.
Dr. Stephen Daniels, a pediatric cardiologist said, "The obese child
is at risk for a number of health-related problems. That includes some
factors for cardiovascular disease, such as cholesterol abnormalities
and high blood pressure. It also includes increased risk for Type Two
Studies show childhood obesity is a national epidemic and California is
no exception. And the problem puts kids at risk for many diseases. Preventing
these problems through good nutrition and exercise is key. And that's
why experts say one place where the battle of the bulge is being fought
in the school lunch line.
"It's far too common today that schools have contracts with fast
food restaurants or that they, themselves, make or make available to students
large portions of high-fat, high-sugar foods," said Harold Goldstein,
executive director of the California Center for Public health Advocacy.
The non-profit center conducted a study that shows 30 percent of children
in this state are overweight.
All isn't gloom and doom. More and more school districts throughout the
state are offering kids a buffet of fruits and vegetables as an alternative
to the typical cafeteria fare. Not only that, they're getting some of
that produce from local farmers. It's all part of a unique program called
"Crunch Lunch." You won't find pizza and pre-packaged sandwiches
on this Davis School District salad bar. "I'm finding that increasing
the fruit and vegetable consumption of the children actually will lower
the total fat content to lower that the accepted 25 percent," said
Rafaelita Curva, director of Student Nutritional Services for Davis Unified
While a number of school cafeterias are adopting healthy habits, Davis
in one of a few to form a partnership with farmers to fight fat. Kerrie
Stevens is with CAFF, the Community Alliance With Family Farmers. It's
a non-profit organization designed to connect growers with the community.
"What better way than getting into the school districts and that
way you get to work with the kids and encourage them to understand the
cycles of life and where their food comes from."
Stephens helps locate local farmers who want to participate in "Crunch
Lunch." She finds many through the Davis Farmers market, like kiwi
grower Frank Stenzel. "It's a great program. It's great for the students,
great for me as a farmer because I can sell directly to the consumers.
Everyone wins," Stenzel said.
The big winners are the kids. Davis hopes to expand the program to include
more schools. For more information call the Community Alliance With Family
Farmers at 530-756-8518, ext. 14 or the Davis Unified School District