Tamms, Ill., school gets grant to improve student eating habits

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

TAMMS, Ill. -- The battle against rising childhood obesity rates at Egyptian Elementary School is a matter of leading by example.

Principal Danny McCrite is a runner, and he's turned his young charges into runners, too.

Everybody, students pre-K through fifth grade, runs at least a half mile every day. It's part of the Mighty Milers initiative, a school and community-based program launched in New York that teaches teens the healthy habit of running and walking for physical fitness and well-being.

Staying active is a necessity at a school where, by McCrite's estimates, at least half of the 285 students struggle with weight problems.

"Like most schools in the U.S., a pretty large percentage of our students are overweight," McCrite said. "We're trying to take initiative to change some of that, to get them more active, eating better and to educate our students, staff and parents."

Egyptian Elementary is not alone. Childhood obesity -- and obesity generally -- is an epidemic nationwide. A Harvard study released late last year projects the U.S. obesity rate will top 40 percent in the coming decades, and one of the indicators is having fat friends. The National Center for Health Statistics in 2008 estimated nearly 17 percent of U.S. children and adolescents ages 2 to 19 were obese.

Egyptian Elementary recently received funding through the Illinois Healthier U.S. Mini-Grant Challenge. The $3,500 grant, provided by the Illinois State Board of Education through a USDA Team Nutrition Training grant, will pay for resources and staff training needed for healthy eating and nutrition education.

The Team Nutrition plan, according to the USDA, involves schools, parents and the community in efforts to improve school meals and to promote the health and education school children in more than 96,000 schools nationwide.

Egyptian Elementary will use part of its grant to purchase curriculum and equipment to be used in the classrooms and in physical education class to promote good nutrition practices and sound exercise practices. Grant money will help pay for jump ropes, hula hoops and other equipment.

"We want to have competitions among the students to get them moving more during PE and recess," McCrite said.

Egyptian is working with local businesses and community groups to foster school and community environments that support healthy eating and physical activity, according to a news release.

mkittle@semissourian.com

388-3627

Pertinent address:

20023 Diswood Road, Tamms IL

Map of pertinent addresses

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