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Grant to bring health lessons to schools: Program targets childhood obesity

ROCK FALLS – Second- and third-graders at two local private schools soon will learn the benefits of eating veggies and playing outside.

The Whiteside County Health Department this week received a grant from the American Cancer Society to implement a pilot program to combat childhood obesity, according to a news release from Beth Fiorini, department administrator.

Starting in February, health department officials will give half-hour lessons on nutrition and physical activity to second- and third-graders at St. Mary’s School in Sterling and St. Andrew School in Rock Falls.

The lessons will have a snack component, a play component and will include a take-home activity that children will be encouraged to complete with their parents.

Students will get sticker books to track their food and physical activity over the 12-week program.

The health department chose second- and third-graders because they still have time to make lifestyle changes, Fiorini said.

“They’re still young enough to influence. ... They’re receptive,” she said. “If you do something, it becomes a habit. So if we can make them think it’s cool to eat an apple a day, maybe they will eat an apple a day for life.”

St. Mary’s Principal Pat Reynolds agrees.

“This is something we already teach, ... but as with any young children, they have to hear it [the message] more than once,” Reynolds said. “If you give it early and often, it carries through their entire life.”

St. Andrew Principal William Lemmer hopes parents buy into the message and reinforce it at home.

“Any time we can get a program in the school that starts with young children ... we hope that they can take that home and use that at home,” Lemmer said. “But we’ve got to get mom and dad to buy into it, too.

“We’re going to stress the program here at school, but we’re going to ask parents to look at what they’re doing at home.

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