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Keeping children's school food in check

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Sep 09, 2005 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- Now, as children all over the country are back in school, it might be a good time to make and keep an early New Year's resolution: to pay close attention to what they eat.

The Trust for America's Health, a self-described non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to saving lives by protecting the health of every community and working to make disease prevention a national priority, has produced a new study concluding that 24.5 percent of American adults can be classified as obese.

The trust also examined how different states are trying to reverse this alarming trend through childhood education. The record is not impressive. Only six states have set nutritional standards tougher than those imposed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, three of them in the past year.

Kentucky and South Carolina, two of the standards-setters, are on the list of the 10 most obese states.

In the more than 20 states that have tackled the issue of nutritious school lunches by introducing legislation, not one of the bills has passed.

Only in Arkansas, Illinois, Tennessee and West Virginia are children screened for acceptable body-mass levels.

Of the 50 states, only 23 have been funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta to develop anti-obesity initiatives. Funding ran out before the 39 states that applied could receive it.

Why did the remaining states not apply?

The top 10 obese states are Mississippi (29.5 percent), Alabama (28.9 percent), West Virginia (27.6 percent), Tennessee (27.2 percent), Louisiana (27 percent), Texas and Kentucky (25.8 percent each), Indiana (25.5 percent), Michigan (25.4 percent) and South Carolina (25.1 percent).

Obese means having a body-mass index higher than 30.

Colorado, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont and Montana were recorded as the least obese states, with Oregon the lone state without an increase over the past year and Hawaii not recorded in the study.

The study's methodology has been questioned by CDC officials, however, who have noted that differing measurements in determining obesity rates and samples varied from state to state. Nevertheless, the agency reports that just two decades ago no one state rated more than one-fifth of its population obese. Now, more than 40 states have reached and passed the obesity rating.

So, when you attend Back to School nights and parent-teacher conferences, make a point of impressing upon your school's principal the importance, not only of your child's education, but also of his or her health. Find out what your school cafeteria is serving and whether there are soda machines in the hallways. Agitate for change if change is needed.

Meanwhile, here's a dish to take to the school Pot Luck dinner that is nutritious and popular with children, but not fattening.


Chicken in barbecue sauce

Serves 4


-- 8 chicken drumsticks

-- 1 medium onion, finely chopped

-- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped

-- 1 heaped tablespoon tomato paste

-- 1 heaped teaspoon Coleman's mustard powder

-- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

-- 1 tablespoon brown sugar

-- 5 tablespoons soy sauce

-- 5 tablespoons wine vinegar

-- olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F

Pat the chicken pieces dry and rub with oil.

Roast in a pan for 30 minutes, turning once or twice, in a 400 degree oven.

Put a little oil in a saute pan and gently fry the onion and the garlic together until soft, then add the remaining ingredients, stirring to mix.

Strain any fat off the chicken, pour the barbecue sauce into the pan and cook for 25 minutes more.


UPI welcomes comments and questions about this column. E-mail:

Copyright 2005 by United Press International.

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