School Nutrition Program Takes Up Obesity Fight

Kids take healthy eating habits home from school programs.

ByABC News via logo
February 9, 2010, 5:34 PM

Feb. 11, 2010— -- As an elementary school nurse, Stephanie Miklosey saw the effects of the childhood obesity epidemic right before her eyes.

At Philadelphia's John Welsh Elementary, Milkosey saw students who had a range of obesity-related conditions including diabetes, high blood pressure and asthma.

"When you start that young, they've got bigger health risks," she said. "It starts younger. It gets worse."

Click here to visit the "GMA" special section on childhood obesity.

In fact, a study published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that obese children are almost twice as likely to die before reaching age 55 than those who are a healthier weight. And with one in three children across the nation considered overweight or obese, many school nurses may also relate to what Miklosey has seen.

But what's different about this north Philadelphia school is that the community was not willing to sit back and watch its children become a part of the statistic.

The school brought in the local non-profit group, The Food Trust, to implement cost-effective but life-changing standards for the school. The group replaced soda with water, juice and milk, and replaced junk food in vending machines with snacks containing less than 200 calories.

And it didn't stop there. In math class, students solve problem sets around nutrition. The school even committed entire days to nutritional eating -- like banana day.

"They were 25 cents apiece," said Milkosey. "And we sold over 400 bananas."

Milkosey said since the school's nutrition makeover, more students are adopting healthier habits in and out of school.

Sixth grader Ivanna Esteves is convinced that healthy eating is not only important but also cool. Esteves, who said she used to snack on chips, Cheetos and soda, but now reads nutritional labels to find out if what she eats is healthy.

"When my mom goes food shopping, she buys, like, grapes and apples and oranges -- and me and my sister, we always eat the grapes in one day," she said.