Broome County Steps To A Healthier NY Partnership Brings "Give Me 5" Campaign To Local School Districts

BINGHAMTON, NY - The Broome County Health Department's STEPS TO A HEALTHIER NY PARTNERSHIP is bringing the National Cancer Institute's (NCI) message "eat 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables every day for better health" to elementary school aged children in the Binghamton, Johnson City, and Union Endicott School Districts. The goal of the "Give Me 5" campaign in the schools is to increase children's consumption of fruits and vegetables by building awareness through creative educational venues and by increasing access to fresh fruits and vegetables at meal times and during before and after school programs.

Overweight children often become overweight adults with an increased risk for several chronic diseases, including diabetes, stroke, heart disease, arthritis and certain cancers. According to the Center for Disease Control, childhood obesity statistics have doubled in last decade. Reasons for this increase are not entirely clear and little is known about the prevention and treatment of overweight on a population basis. What is apparent, are risk factors that contribute to the childhood obesity epidemic, such as lack of physical activity, and equally important, lack of proper nutrition. Recent national estimates indicate that only half of U.S. children participate in vigorous physical activity, and less than a quarter eat the recommended 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Social, economic, and cultural forces are also said to have an impact on the increasing prevalence of overweight among children in the U.S.

As a reaction to the skyrocketing rates of childhood obesity, several pieces of legislation are being introduced at the federal level. A bill to provide healthy school vending machines was announced by Congresswoman Lois Capps. The Student Nutrition Act 2003 would create a grant program to help schools purchase vending machines that stock healthy food. The grants would also be used to help schools cover the cost to replace existing vending machines. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which regulates school lunch programs, is enforcing the 30% fat content of school meals.

Locally, the Broome County Steps to a Healthier NY Partnership will work with school districts to: institute policy changes to purchase and serve fresh, locally grown produce; contract with food vending services that offer healthier food choices; adopt before and after school curriculums that offer cooking and healthy eating classes.

For more information on the Give Me 5 campaign, contact Diane O'Hora, Supervising Public Health Educator for the Broome County Health Department at 607.778.3921 or by e-mail at dohora=$Edomain;?>@co.broome.ny.us.