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Film explores benefits and challenges of farm to school

April 12, 2012, AgriNews

One in three children in the United States is overweight or obese. One in five preschool children are overweight or obese.

Childhood obesity is shaping up as one of the major health challenges of the 21st century, Mary Story says in the new documentary, “Farm to School: Growing our Future.” Story is a professor at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health and a National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research (NCCOR) External Scientific Panel member.

The farm to school documentary was produced as a partnership between University of Minnesota Extension, the Minnesota Department of Health and Twin Cities Public Television, with funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It was released last month.

The film explores Minnesota's farm to school movement, both opportunities and challenges.

During the last four years, farm to school initiatives have increased more than tenfold across the state, but there are signs the program's growth is leveling off or going backward.

Farm to school aims to get fresh, unprocessed foods onto students' plates in the school cafeteria. Many schools have taken the effort farther than that, bringing in farmers who grow the food served in the cafeteria as guest speakers and starting school gardens.

"We talk about it (healthy living) in our health classes, we talk about it in our phy ed classes. Well the food and nutrition department ought to be right there in the same conversation because it isn't going to do any good to ramp up your phy ed classes if you now go down to lunch and you eat all the starchy, fatty foods that are going to put all that right back on that body," said Dover-Eyota superintendent Bruce Klaehn in the documentary. "To solve the childhood obesity problem, we need a combination of better exercise and food choices and that's where this program fits in wonderfully."

Unless something is done, Story said, today's children will be the first generation of children less healthy and with a shorter expected lifespan than their parents.

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