Trimming the fat from school lunch menus

FRESNO, Calif.

Merced and Madera Counties saw a slight drop while Kern, Tulare and Fresno Counties experienced a jump among overweight kids.

"I think it's very important that they eat healthy, stay active," said Staci Koetsier of Southeast Fresno. She makes a conscious effort to limit the amount of fast food her 5-year-old daughter Samantha consumes.

"We eat maybe fast food three times a month. We try not to eat it because it is high in cholesterol also and it's not good for the kids," said Koetsier.

"I eat apples and bananas and grapes," said Samantha. But with the high concentration of fast food restaurants in the Valley, it's hard for parents and kids to find healthy options.

A study released by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research shows the percentage of overweight and obese kids in Fresno County increased by 5.6 percent from 2005 to 2010. A number Fresno Unified has been trying to decrease.

"We provide over 54,000 lunches each day to our students in our district and we strive every day to provide healthy choices," said Jose Alvarado, director of Food Services at FUSD.

Sunnyside High School in Southeast Fresno is one of many schools in the District that offer a fruit and salad option.

"We're always reevaluating our menu items to look at added sugars, so I think we're doing our part to reduce obesity," said Alvarado.

"They have not gone far enough. We really think that they're making progress but the progress now has to be very fast," said Edith Jessup with the Central California Regional Obesity Prevention Program. She applauds the steps schools have taken in recent years to cut back on sugary foods but still wants to seem more, such as eliminating flavored milk.

"Kids who are overweight and unfit will develop diabetes and they are developing diabetes and hypertension in grade school," said Jessup.

But everyone agrees parents need to get more involved in their children's wellbeing at an early age, before they develop those health risks that can be a matter of life or death.

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