Local schools do part to battle childhood obesity

Freedom New Mexico: Liliana Castillo Students at Sandia Elementary School munch on a lunch of grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup Friday at the school cafeteria.

By Thomas Garcia: Freedom New Mexico

First lady Michelle Obama is directing national attention to childhood obesity with her “Let’s Move” campaign.

And Clovis and Portales schools are taking the fight straight to the lunchroom as they work to provide healthy meals to local youths.

“We are turning towards using more fresh fruits and frozen vegetables,” said Paul Klein, Clovis Schools Food Service director.

Klein said frozen vegetables have a lower sodium content than canned vegetables.

Clovis also uses nutritional software to help create healthy menus, Klein said.

Officials at Clovis and Portales stress they follow USDA guidelines to provide nutritional and healthy meals.

One U.S. Department of Agriculture study found approximately 80 percent of children who were overweight at age 10-to-15 years were obese adults at age 25. Another study found that 25 percent of obese adults were overweight as children.

A 2004 study conducted by the New Mexico Department of Health and New Mexico Public Education Department showed 10 percent of state high school students were obese and 13 percent were at risk of being obese.

The same state study showed 9 percent of 2- to 5-year-olds in the Women Infant and Children (WIC) program were obese and 13 percent were at risk of being obese.

School lunches are required to meet federal nutrition requirements, but decisions about how they are prepared are made by local school officials.

Klein and Portales Food Service Director Shirley Chatterton said neither school district fries any of food served to the children.

“We want to provide nutritious meals for the students,” said Chatterton.

Klein and Chatterton said their school’s lunch program follows portion and nutritional percentage requirements set by the USDA.

School lunches must contain no more than 30 percent of an individual’s calories of fat, and less than 10 percent of saturated fat, according to the USDA regulations.

Regulations also establish a standard for school lunches to provide one-third of the recommended dietary allowances of protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, iron, calcium, and calories.