By Rose L. Thayer
Killeen Daily Herald
The childhood obesity rate in Texas is substantially higher than the national average. An estimated 35 percent of all school-age children in Texas are considered overweight or obese, according to information from the Texas Public Health Coalition. The national average is 17 percent. Even more troubling is that this number has continued to grow over the last decade.
Overweight and obese children are more likely to grow up to become overweight adults and suffer some of the many known side effects. But there are also many health issues that can affect them now.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, overweight and obese children are more likely to suffer from joint problems, higher glucose levels and even Type 2 diabetes, heartburn, cardiovascular disease and low self-esteem.
To combat this growing problem, the Killeen Independent School District is working with children as well as parents to raise awareness and teach healthy living skills.
KISD had its annual Family Fitness and Wellness Fair Saturday at Leo Buckley Stadium at Killeen High School. This was the fifth year for the event, and the third time it was held outdoors.
The day kicked off at 8 a.m. with a 5K run and family fun walk and continued until 1 p.m. with many other physical activities, such as a three-legged race and a flag football game.
Local businesses and school organizations, including gyms, hospitals, doctors and dentists and nutritionists, set up stations to share information about healthy living advisers.
Central Texas College culinary students hosted healthy cooking demonstrations and healthy snacks were available both for free and for purchase.
Steve Murphy, the nutrition director for KISD, co-chaired the event, and said the main goal is to get children used to being more active and playing outside.
He hopes families will learn from this event to eat more nutrition meals and exercise together as a family, he said.
At school, students get 30 to 35 minutes of physical fitness daily and school meals are created with nutrition in mind.
A School Health Advisory Council, made of parent representatives and district personnel, supports campuses in providing and reinforcing a healthy focus.
But healthy habits have to be reinforced at home as well, which is why district employees believe events like Saturday's are so important.
"I hope parents take away the fact that they need to teach their children the benefits of healthy eating at an early age," said Brenda Smith, a parent community involvement specialist with KISD and co-chair of the event.
She said it's important to lay the foundation of nutrition knowledge early, so that children can carry it with them for life.
"I'm blessed to be in a district where I can provide this opportunity," Smith said.
Wayne Moore is a parent liaison for West Ward Elementary School, where many students come from low-income families, making them statistically at a higher risk of becoming obese.
He hosts sessions with parents to teach them that healthy choices can also be economical.
"Instead of frying, you can take the same piece of meat and boil, grill, skin it or bake it," Moore said.
He said many parents in his community look for fast, instant options to feed their children, so he also teaches them to make healthier versions of rice crispy treats and granola bars.
Nikki Fossett, a parent liaison at Timber Ridge Elementary School, said the day's event was also fun, because the whole family could participate, and "take away a piece of information to keep their family healthy and fit."
Contact Rose L. Thayer at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7463. Follow her on Twitter at KDHreporter.