Healthy Eating, Exercise Initiative Targets Local Grade Schools

KENNY KEMP | Saturday Gazette-Mail

Samatha Snodgrass hands out place mats and backpacks to the fourth- and fifth-grade classes at Anne Bailey Elementary, in St. Albans. Fourth-grader Heith McCormick, 10, gets a place mat that illustrates healthy food serving sizes and offers tips for healthy eating through Kidz Bite Back, a healthy-lifestyle initiative being piloted at the school.

The kids were doing the teaching Friday morning at Anne Bailey Elementary School, in St. Albans, and the subject was one that has caused concern across West Virginia and the nation for years the health of their peers.

Children in the fourth and fifth grades at ABES coached their classmates on the dangers of excessive junk food and too little exercise during a Kidz Bite Back Summit, where the Kidz Advocates talked about how Big Fat Industries fast-food restaurants, junk-food manufacturers and soft-drink companies and Couch Potato Companies national television networks and video game companies use advertising tactics to convince people to consume their products in excess.

The statistics are eye-opening: More than 300,000 Americans die each year from diseases caused by poor diet and lack of exercise. These diseases kill nearly 1,000 people every day and are the second-leading cause of death in the United States, behind tobacco use.

The group also highlighted more popular foods and the truth about the number of calories and levels of sugar they contain: One 20-ounce bottle of Sunkist Soda the initiative calls soda liquid candy has the same amount of sugar as six Breyers ice cream sandwiches. In another example, a person would need to do 1,150 push-ups to burn off the number of calories in one large Oreo Blizzard from Dairy Queen.

I think the kids enjoy doing it, said Samantha Snodgrass, a volunteer with KEYS 4 Healthy Kids, the nonprofit group that organized the summit. The whole campaign, boosting the kids and allowing them the power to give the information to others, makes it easier for other children to listen,

Kidz Bite Back differs from other health initiatives because it encourages moderation, Snodgrass said, instead of asking children to give up their favorite foods entirely or never watch TV. The program is a national initiative that KEYS brought to West Virginia, and ABES, Ruffner and Grandview elementary schools are piloting the program, which, if successful, could spread to other Mountain State schools.

The statistics on screen time are alarming: children spend an average of 44.5 hours per week watching television, surfing the Internet or playing video games more time than many of their parents spend at the office during a 40-hour workweek.

Joey Bays, 9, said he used to play a lot of video games but, since becoming a Kidz Advocate, has made an effort to spend less time on them and more time outside.

I used to have kind of a video game problem, but Im getting better on that, Bays said. I still play video games, but Im getting better about it. I play with my friends outside we play swords and tag, and we race. One of my friends has a go-cart now, too, so we play with that.

Kidz Advocate Piper Cole, 9, said that when her physical education teacher, Brian Linville, asked her if she wanted to participate in the program, she thought it would be a good way to learn while helping her fellow students understand more about the foods they eat.

I just see a lot of kids in my class bringing three brownies and maybe two Kool Aids, and its just for them, Cole said.

For Linville, who volunteered to coordinate the program at ABES, the initiative seemed like a good way to promote healthier lifestyles for the children he teaches.

Often, kids dont get enough background knowledge on healthy habits and healthy eating, so, when I was approached by KEYS about Kidz Bite Back, I thought it was a great thing we immediately wanted to get in on, he said. This presented a good opportunity for the kids to learn leadership skills, too. I picked kids I thought were quieter and held back, to give them an opportunity to put themselves forward and take charge of something, and its been great for them. I think theyve learned a lot.

Kidz Bite Back in West Virginia is supported by Coventry Cares, KEYS 4 Healthy Kids and the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health. For more information on Kidz Bite Back, visit www.kidzbiteback.com[1].

Reach Lydia Nuzum at lydia.nuzum@wvgazette.com, 304-348-5189 or follow @lydianuzum on Twitter.


  1. ^ www.kidzbiteback.com (www.kidzbiteback.com)

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