Positve School Meals Story in Denver Post (April 24, 2010)

Promoted prominently on page 1 of the Denver & The West section:  
"Expert Takes Active Role on Kid's Obesity. Nutritionist Dayle Hayes worries about childhood obesity, but she also worries about the focus on weight could make the stigma worse for children. She encourages parents to focus on energizing activities at school as well as changes to eating habits. 3B"
The copy inside on 3B covers 12" of space in the paper. The headline is different from online edition."Fat fight: a game plan for schools. A nutritionist warns the state PTA against too much focus on kid's obesity."

By Colleen O'Connor
The Denver Post
Posted: 04/24/2010 01:00:00 AM MDT
Updated: 04/24/2010 01:46:46 AM MDT

Seems like America's lunch ladies are under attack by everyone from celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and his "Food Revolution" to retired U.S. military officers, who this week said obesity is a "national security threat" because about 27 percent of Americans between the ages of 17 and 24 are "too fat to fight."

Blame school lunches of spaghetti and pizza and French fries?

Not so fast, says nutritionist Dayle Hayes.

"Childhood obesity is a problem, no doubt about it," she said. "But that rate has been stable for about 10 years, which makes it an urgent issue, but not the only issue."

Some districts are doing great things with school lunches — particularly Jefferson County — and an unrelenting focus on obesity can have a serious downside, she said Friday to the annual meeting of the Colorado PTA convention, a talk that was sponsored by the Western Dairy Association.

"We need to be very careful about how we talk about this with young people," she said.

A sole focus on childhood obesity could increase the stigma at a time when one of the top causes of bullying is weight bias, she said.

There is also the risk of increasing the pressure on young girls, who are constantly barraged with stick-thin images of models in magazines.

At a recent talk in Casper, Hayes was approached by the worried mother of a 9-year-old who said her daughter was asking about "surgery for obesity on children because of her belly."

Hayes encouraged PTA members to work with their local schools on five key points:

• Breakfast for every child, at home or at school. Studies show that kids who eat breakfast are less likely to be overweight, are faster at math and have better behavior.

• Recess before lunch. Research shows that kids will be more relaxed and focused on eating instead of the playground.

• Nutrient-rich lunches, and time to enjoy them. Kids need at least 20 minutes' seated time at lunch, she said.

• Create more safe routes for walking or biking to school. Just 15 to 20 minutes of such exercise on the way to school, she said, "is more than half the physical activity they need."

• Have regular classroom energizers. Giving kids a break in the classroom to move their bodies gets oxygen into their brains and helps them learn better.

Activity by the PTA can help a lot, she said.

"If you're concerned about what the meals in your district are like, it doesn't help just to talk about it and complain," she said. Hayes urged the group to get involved with people who direct school-nutrition programs.

Colleen O'Connor: 303-954-1083 or coconnor@denverpost.com

Nutritionist's ideas

Check out these resources from Dayle Hayes, incoming chair of the Dietitians School Nutrition specialty group within the American Dietetic Association.

The article is also online, but the online headline did not reflect my presentation (trying to get away from the battle analogies). The online link is http://www.denverpost.com/ci_14950278#comments