As a pediatrician, I spend a lot of time talking about nutrition with families. There are two truths I try to impart to families when I am helping them to raise healthy children. First, foods that are presented early and often in a child’s life will tend to be incorporated into that child’s diet. Second, peer pressure works and is a good thing when it comes to eating. A child who is exposed to other children eating healthy food will internalize those eating habits and eat healthier.
That’s why I am so happy to see Seguin ISD incorporate salad bars into its elementary cafeterias. In case you missed the story in the local media, you can take a look here. Obesity is, of course, a problem across our nation. It’s an especially serious problem in Texas, which ranks 11th among the states in it’s obesity rate. Frighteningly, a shocking 36.6% of Texas children are overweight or obese. There are a lot of factors that contribute to this. Kids are less active than they used to be, often spending hours in front of a screen watching television, playing video games, or surfing on a smartphone. They are also bombarded by marketing messages that promote unhealthy eating by marketing fast food, prepackaged food, and “junk” food. Finally, especially in our community, high poverty rates contribute to the problem. It is a sad fact that calorie-dense, prepared foods are cheaper that fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats. For a family struggling to make ends meet, the affordable, healthy options at the grocery store are limited. The next time you’re at HEB, pay attention to the carts of the families. You will see them stocked with high-calorie, high-sodium foods. Why? Because they are cheaper.
Seguin ISD has taken the initiative over the last few years to try and combat the problem of childhood obesity. Pete Silvius, the Seguin ISD Coordinator of Physical and Outdoor Education has started a number of health and wellness programs in the district over the last two years. His most recent effort, the salad bars in our elementary schools, truly has the potential to change lives. Our young people are now going to see fresh fruits and vegetables every single day. Even better, they are going to have friends and classmates eating those fresh, healthy foods. That is going to impact the choices they make.
Mr. Silvius and the Seguin ISD deserve congratulations from all of us for bringing this important program to our schools. It goes far beyond just providing healthy foods for our kids. These salad bars are an educational tool that we are now using to teach kids how to eat healthy nutritious foods that will allow them to lead long and healthy lives. Good job!
Together we can do better.