TAVARES — During the first week of May, approximately 20,000 elementary students of Lake County Schools will participate in a “Step it Up!” program which promotes physical exercise, proper nutrition and cleanliness.
According to Jim Hill, Food Service Supervisor for Lake County Schools, elementary-school students that participate in the program can earn prizes donated by Nike, such as water bottles, backpacks and sport balls. Students participate in the weeklong program by earning points for certain activities. For example, 20 minutes of physical exercise is worth one point and eating a well-balanced breakfast is also worth a point. Bonus points are also awarded for getting eight hours of sleep each night and washing their hands before eating.
“Our focus is to create a community awareness to get everybody on board to encourage these students,” Hill said. “Nutrition is only a small portion of it. Exercise is an integral part of living a healthy lifestyle.”
The weeklong “Step it Up!” program is an example of initiatives a new subcommittee, Fit for Life, of the Lake County Children’s Services Council is trying to organize to stem the tide against rising childhood obesity. According to results from the 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site (www.cdc.gov), indicate that an estimated 17 percent of children and adolescents ages 2-19 years are overweight. The survey also indicates this figure increased from 11 to 19 percent among 6-11 year olds between 1988-94 and 2003-2004. Among adolescents aged 12-19, overweight increased from 11 to 17 percent during the same period.
The Fit for Life committee is a partnership between many local agencies including Lake County Government, Lake County Health Department, Lake County Schools and Lake County Water Authority. To learn more about the Fit for Life committee and its goal to reduce to child obesity in Lake County, call the Children’s Services Council at (352) 343-1408.