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Schools try to fight childhood obesity problem

There's been a lot of talk on how schools can fight the childhood obesity problem: from fewer vending machines to healthier lunches and more PE classes. But as millions of kids go back to classes over the next few weeks will they see any of these changes? It's been a year since Congress required school districts to commit to wellness programs to combat childhood obesity, but has anything changed in three of the biggest problem areas? In cities like Oakland, California and New York City junk-filled school vending machines are a thing of the past. Policies vary across states and districts but in schools where machines remain, healthier alternatives, like granola bars, sugar free drinks and baked snacks are sold. Loaded with calories and fat, most school cafeterias aren't much better than fast food restaurants. A recent study by the physicians committee for responsible medicine finds school lunches are falling short of providing students with healthy alternatives. That's because the government spends more money on high fat foods for school programs. Dulcie Ward with the Committee for Responsible Medicine said, "In 2005 they spent $750 million on meat and dairy products, and a mere $10 million on fruits and vegetables." But the report says progress is being made. States like California, Florida, Hawaii and New York are allocating more money to add fruits, vegetables and grains to their lunch programs this year. As for physical education, educators are realizing that PE may be the only time a child gets exercise. But many schools will have to cut funds somewhere else, to bring PE back. Ken Stanton with the University of Baltimore obesity report card said, "That's been a bit more tough battle, even though we are convinced that it's one of the important pieces we need to do." That's why the face of PE is changing. For example, West Virginia schools are incorporating active video games into their curriculum. The videos are relatively inexpensive and get the kids moving without having to hire special PE teachers.

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