New Haven schools get help from HBO to fight obesity

Reprinted from New Haven Register article:
New Haven schools get help from HBO to fight obesity
Tuesday May 1, 2012 By Alexandra Sanders, Register Staff

NEW HAVEN — Nearly 32 percent of the nation’s children are overweight or obese, according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, but HBO launched a public health campaign that will help the city’s children be a littler healthier by ensuring all of New Haven’s schools have a salad bar by the beginning of the 2012 school year.

HBO recently created “Weight of the Nation,” a documentary series that is a response to the obesity epidemic in America, and with it, the organization kicked off a public health campaign to install 100 salad bars and 100 water taps in schools in 12 cities across the country.

HBO launched the effort in partnership with Globaltap and Whole Foods Market’s Whole Kids Foundation.

Benjamin Jepson School was the first to have a water bottle filler and water tap installed in the hallway across from the cafeteria and on Tuesday morning, about 20 students in a sixth grade class clamored to fill their new HBO water bottles.

“We continue to lead the country with school reform and also with school food,” said Will Clark, chief operating officer for New Haven Public Schools. “New Haven Public Schools is committed to growing healthy students … And we recognize that the connection between healthy students and students being ready to learn is critical.”

Jepson has healthful features as part of the school already, such as an organic garden and popular fitness classes such as Zumba and Yoga, but not all city schools have access to healthful features.

Over the past few years, 40 salad bars have been donated to New Haven schools from various companies, leaving only five without salad bars, according to Tim Cipriano, executive director of Food Services in New Haven. The five salad bars donated by HBO will be installed in Hyde Leadership School, New Haven Academy, Polly McCabe Center, Riverside Education Academy and Engineering and Science University Magnet School.

“Twenty four percent of people who live in New Haven live beneath the poverty line and 13 percent of children under the age of 18 are food insecure, which means they lack access to nutritious food,” said Cipriano. “Many kids in our schools rely on school meals as their only meal of the day.”

Jepson’s salad bar, which was donated to the school last year, was initially offered twice a week but students apparently liked it so much, they made salad a menu staple.

Kaylee Roberts, 13, said the school lunch at Benjamin Jepson is enjoyable but she gravitates toward the salad bar.

“Not to be mean but a lot of kids are kind of chubby and it’s because of what they’re eating,” she said. “It also doesn’t help their brains focus or help them get stronger. (Eating right) is a big thing for me. I want to do good things, get good grades in school and be able to focus.”

Aside from being offered cold water and a salad, the sixth grade class at Jepson watched one part of the HBO series, “Weight of the Nation for Kids: The Great Cafeteria Takeover,” which chronicled efforts of students in New Orleans who vowed to improve school lunches.

The multi-part series will debut on May 14 and will also air on May 15, both at 8 p.m., exclusively on HBO.

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