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Fighting obesity in the Frazier School District

| Sunday, July 8, 2007

Starting with the 2007-08 school year, students in the Frazier School District will have a healthier choice for lunch.

That's because all four schools in the district will have new salad bars as part of their cafeterias.

The salad bars were made possible by a $17,000 grant from the Highmark Foundation as part of the Highmark Healthy High 5 School Challenge.

The money will pay for the salad bars at Perry Elementary, Central Elementary and at the senior high and middle schools.

Patricia Thomas, Frazier's supervisor of curriculum and federal programs, applied for the grant.

Highmark Healthy High 5 is a five-year, $100 billion initiative of the Highmark Foundation aimed at reversing the current trends in children's health and to promote lifelong, healthy habits.

The salad bars will help the school district address the growing trend of childhood obesity. In the United States, 30 percent of children ages 6-19 are overweight and 15 percent of them are considered obese.

The salad bars will reach 1,200 students in the school district from kindergarten through grade 12.

"Childhood obesity is a growing concern in our schools as it continues to be one of the nation's top health threats," Thomas said. "This grant will provide us with the resources to implement programs to help our children adopt healthier habits."

Thomas said this is the second year she has applied for and received the Highmark grant. Only this year, she got a little surprise.

"When I filled out the grant application, I asked for $8,500 and said that the district would match the other half of the cost," she explained. "But when the grant came back, they gave us all of the money. That was really great."

Previously, students eating lunch in the district had limited choices for salad. They would choose from pre-prepared salads.

Now, they will be able to make their own salads and enhance their choices toward healthier living.

"The salad bars will go hand in hand with allowing us to meet the goals of our wellness program," said Frazier Superintendent Dennis Spinella.

Thomas said the salad bars will "provide healthy eating choices and hopefully cut into the childhood obesity issue."

The Highmark Foundation, through the Healthy High 5 School Challenge, awarded more than $800,000 in grants to 172 schools in 49 counties served by the foundation during June.

The program addresses five critical children's health issues, including nutrition, physical activity, self-esteem, grieving and bullying prevention through education, communication, volunteerism, grants and programming.

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