A new program set to begin in January in Colquitt County targets childhood obesity. It involves 600 third graders in 10 elementary schools.
University of Georgia researcher Marsha Davis won a two and a half million dollar grant from the USDA for the five year program. Davis says they will educate the kids on healthy eating habits and encourage more exercise. She says they will also work with families.
She says “We’re also giving parents workshops to help them prepare healthy foods on a budget. Work with picky eaters and their family. So we’re building on the dynamic between parent and child.”
Why Colquitt County? Andrea Scarrow with the UGA county extension office says the southwest Georgia county has a large population from low income households.
“In a rural area, the obesity rates are just that much higher. And we also have quite a diverse population. With our agricultural base we have a lot of migrant families here.” she says.
Davis says they are hoping the children will become change agents to help reverse obesity in the whole community.
She says “We know that children have a great deal of influence on what the family eats, and activities that they do. So if they can be advocates for themselves in their schools and in their families, and take advantage of the community activities that Colquitt is doing, we know we can be successful.”
They will measure the children’s body mass index and waist circumference to determine how the program is doing. They will also look at food and fitness preferences over the length of the program.
Davis says if they can change a third grader’s behavior now, those healthy habits are likely last a lifetime.