The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that obesity rates among low-income preschoolers in Mississippi are going down, some good news my colleague LaReeca Rucker shared today on her Mississippi Style Blog. Obesity rates declined between 2008 and 2011 in 19 of 43 states and territories studied, including Mississippi.
What I believe is helping decrease those rates is improving the access low-income families have to healthier food options like community gardens, farmers markets and co-ops. Another example is various school districts using grant funds to replace kitchen equipment with appliances that prepare healthier meals for students. The Clinton and Hinds County school districts come to mind.
Last academic year, the Clinton district added new kitchen equipment to schools, including the new Northside and Eastside elementary schools that were featured on the Rachael Ray cooking contest episode featuring First Lady Michelle Obama. During the episode, cafeteria cooks whipped up steamed veggies, hummus and other light, healthy fare.
In Hinds County, Utica and Carver elementary schools are serving healthy, popular meals thanks to a Nutrition Integrity 2012-13 grant from the Mississippi Department of Education. The schools removed existing deep fat fryers and replaced them with state-of-the-art oven steamers that cook foods with less fat. The baked and steamed foods are crisp on the outside, moist on the inside, and school nutrition directors say the children enjoy them just as much.
This initiative only influences more physical education activities like walking clubs or fitness challenges, and I’ve seen these programs at schools all over the Jackson metro area. You know the saying that this generation will have a lower life expectancy than its parents? This news could change your outlook.