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School food workers learn how to prevent obesity 1C53

By Sharon Omahen
University of Georgia

Super-size isn't an option in Georgia's school cafeterias. And University of Georgia experts are working to keep it that way.

To help reduce childhood obesity numbers, UGA Cooperative Extension nutrition specialists conduct statewide school cafeteria worker trainings each summer.

"School-aged children eat meals at school nine months out of the year," said Judy Bland, a UGA Extension specialist. "Many children eat two meals a day at school."

For this reason, UGA Extension nutritionists decided to teach portion control to school cafeteria workers.

"We're eating too much food in our country," said Bland, who organizes the trainings in south Georgia. "We're eating huge portions, and we think that's normal. Our kids don't know that it's not normal."

Trainings

Bland and her extension counterparts present the trainings each summer, while school is out. It's easier, she says, for the workers to focus on the educational material when they aren't focusing on the hundreds of children they have to feed that day.

"Most school-aged children eat two meals at school, so the school cafeteria is the perfect place to provide examples of what normal portion sizes are," she said. "Educating school lunchroom staffs ... is the best way to control the portion sizes school children are served."

Training cafeteria workers on portion control not only helps with childhood obesity issues. It also helps reduce food wastes.

In seven locations across southwest Georgia, the one-day training reaches more than 1,000 cafeteria workers each summer.

"One in four kids is classified as obese," Bland said. "Obesity spills over into high diabetes rates in children and increased heart disease, too. We're seeing increased levels of Type 2 diabetes in adolescents and teenagers. This is a serious trend in the health field, and we're trying to help reduce it."

(Sharon Omahen is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

(Sharon Omahen is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

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