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Obesity Tackled at School Level

The Ontario government is tackling obesity by aiming at getting the children in northern communities to eat their vegetables. //

According to Health Promotion Minister, Jim Watson, the government would be launching a pilot project this fall, where carrot sticks, apples and other fresh fruit and vegetables would be supplied to children in elementary schools in Northern Ontario.

"My ultimate goal is, if successful, I'd like to see it stretched throughout the province of Ontario," Mr. Watson said.

The health ministry has planned to spend about $450,000 on the project in elementary schools north of Parry Sound, which is 230 kilometres north of Toronto with the list of schools to be released next month.

Similar projects have also been undertaken in jurisdictions like British Columbia, which had set up a pilot program in 10 elementary schools last year, and England, whereby students in more than 500 schools were reached in 2000.

According to Mr. Watson childhood obesity rates have tripled in 15 years. In fact it has been estimated that one in every six adults in the country is obese.

In November 2004 Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health Sheela Basrur had called attention to the "obesity epidemic" threatening the health of Ontarians by an increase in heart disease, stroke and hypertension. The present project was initiated by the government in response to this.

"I am very heartened by the government's response to my report," Dr. Basrur. "This is a very promising start towards a strategy that ultimately will need to extend more broadly."

Dr. Basrur has applauded the initiation of the pilot project in the north because fresh fruit and vegetables were both scarce and expensive here.

Many communities have initiated their own movements to encourage children to include more fruits and vegetables in their diet. For instance in Windsor, JumpStart Community Nutrition provides fresh vegetabl es four days a week to 280 students under a 12-week pilot project.


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