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Somerville, A Town Committed to Tackle Obesity Among Kids

d to the area of nutrition. The result was "Shape Up".

It didn't take long to convince Mayor Joseph Curtatone, who himself would like to get rid of a few pounds, that the programme would be worthwhile. He said he immediately saw the programme's potential.

When the programme began more than 40 percent of the children in Somerville already were classified as overweight or at risk of becoming overweight. The mayor reckoned that a programme that encouraged people to strengthen their bodies and eat healthy foods could only turn the town into a better place to live.

And so it began. The people running the programme aimed to spend the least possible amount of money. They made small changes like freshening up the paint that formed zebra-stripe crosswalks and positioning crossing guards at major intersections to make walking to school more appealing.

Information brochures were handed out, bicycle paths were built and the number of racks for parking bicycles was noticeably increased.

And to show its commitment, the town council decided to give its civil servants an incentive to work on their physical fitness. By going to the gym, they could receive a refund of the monthly membership fee.

In addition to offering smaller portions, about 20 restaurants in the town began including low-fat items on their menus. School lunches also became healthier through subtle changes that didn't drastically alter taste.

The cafeteria started serving hamburgers on whole-wheat buns, for example, and providing a lot of fruit for children to fill up on. The school also began teaching children how to eat nutritious and good-tasting food, and samples of different foods were regularly made available.

Parents also were drawn into the programme at meetings where they heard presentations about nutrition, at health bazaars complete with nutrition exhibits and at events such as community mini-m
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