Community Action Key to Curbing Obesity, Panelists Say After Documentary Screening
Questions about nutrition and physical activity were asked by attendees following last month’s screening of The Weight of The Nation, an HBO documentary, at the Auburn State Theater.
Auburn Mayor Scott Kudrna; Auburn Public Schools Superintendent Kevin Reiman and Dr. Michael Zaruba of Auburn Family Health Center answered questions on such topics as: the amount of calories served in school lunches, options for more physical activity after school, what they learned from the documentary and how children and adults can get help with weight issues.
“This was a great start. It started an important discussion. (The panelists) talked about changes made to begin that discussion. Community support is important,” said Dr. Kyle Ryan of Peru State College.
“People have great ideas. It’s time to start a community forum to increase community activity to hopefully curb obesity,” Ryan said. He is associate professor of education and human performance lab coordinator at Peru State.
New Guidelines Implemented for School Lunches
Reiman said he was unsure about the number of calories served daily in Auburn Public Schools lunches. School officials implemented new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) guidelines for lunches this year. Guidelines for school breakfast will take effect next year, he said.
The regulations are part of the Healthy and Hungry Kids Act approved by Congress in 2010. Reiman said he talks about the changes daily with Erna Blount, Auburn Public Schools director of nutritional services.
“As we have implemented the USDA guidelines, student participation has dropped about 25 percent. That is directly correlated to the changes. Some do not like the new food served this year,” Reiman said.
Changes include whole grain food items, such as breads. There is still a salad bar in the middle and high school where students may purchase additional fruits and vegetables. Fruit juices are not restricted items. Pop machines are still in school buildings but their use is restricted to certain hours, the superintendent said.
School officials increased lunch prices 10 cents this year, the maximum increase allowed under federal law, the superintendent said. School officials also have seen increased food costs. Last year, school officials transferred $20,000 into the school lunch program in May and had to transfer that amount to the program last month because of increasing costs. Reiman said school officials are doing all they can to decrease costs. School officials and the school board will look at the cost issue as the school year winds down, the superintendent concluded.
In the area of weight loss, Dr. Zaruba said it is important to look at nutritional intake.
“We make (weight loss) as complicated as we can. We need to start with calories in and calories out, then look at nutritional information, such as carbohydrate, protein and fat breakdown. Nutritional value will come when you watch calories. It’s frustrating when you look at labels where (manufacturers) will change the serving size so it will look healthier than it is,” Dr. Zaruba said.
It is recommended a sedentary child have an intake of 1,200 to 1,400 calories daily while an active child needs more than that, he said.
Dr. Zaruba said he has not seen a lot of overweight children. In controlling your weight, Dr. Zaruba said you need to focus on what you eat.
“You need to follow an approach that’s simple and you can stick to. You need to write down what you eat,” he said.
Dr. Zaruba said an hour a day of exercise is only adequate and more than that was recommended. He said he has talked to parents about limiting screen time for their children.
“The more they are in front of the screen, the less they are active,” he said.
Kudrna spoke about the need to facilitate outdoor activities to make it easy for children to go outside and play. Families also need to be involved with outdoor activities, the mayor said.
“We have a great city recreation program and swimming pool. We have indoor activities during the winter, but not a lot of activities the whole family can do. We’ve tried to start a trail system. People don’t want a trail close to them but they want a trail they can use. We need community support,” Kudrna said.
The mayor suggested families go walking together.
“There’s so many things you can do outside and make it a great time for your family,” Kudrna said.
Reiman was asked about more physical activities after school.
Last summer, Michelle Leslie, Auburn Public Schools nurse, led a summer wellness program. Eight participants in grades six through 12 meet three times weekly and learned about physical activities and healthy nutrition. The superintendent said it is hoped to expand the program in the summer of 2013.
“It’s great to have more physical activity. We’re looking for everything and anything,” Reiman said.
Focus on Prevention; Where Adults Can Get Help
“We have a health care system focused on treating. We need a health care system focused on prevention. That would cut health care costs significantly,” Dr. Zaruba said.
In responding to a question on how adults can get help with obesity, Dr. Zaruba said the first step is to talk to your personal physician before starting an exercise program.
“Beyond that, you need to tailor it to your schedule. You have to make it work for yourself and make it part of your routine. You need to find out something you like to do, such as a non-impact exercise. You’ll be amazed how easy it is. We need people to step up and support activities. We can’t expect any city, state or federal government to support these things,” Dr. Zaruba said.
CHANCE Initiative 2013 Plans
The Weight of the Nation screening and discussion was sponsored by the Children’s Health, Activity & Nutrition Community Engagement (CHANCE) Initiative as part of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service.
The initiative is a pilot study at Calvert Elementary School. It is a partnership between Peru State College, Auburn Public Schools and Auburn Family Health Center, P.C. The initiative was developed by Ryan and Sheri Grotrian-Ryan, Peru State associate professor of business and Phi Beta Lambda sponsor.
In 2012, second, third and fifth graders were taught about healthier lifestyles, including exercise and nutrition. Ryan said this year students in grades four through eight are involved. Students will wear pedometers during the day, he said.
“We will look at if activity levels change, not only by grade level, but by gender,” Ryan said.
The initiative began the last week in January and will continue through the last week in April.