CONCORD -- Many students at Mt. Diablo High take classes centered on healthy living and eating. They call soda "diabetes in a bottle" because excess sugar contributes to the disease. And french fries, said student Cindy Gomez, are considered "cancer sticks."
Still, hearing this week that a diet of those sugary and fatty foods could cause them to die younger than their parents or grandparents came as quite a shock. To reach students outside the school's targeted classes that focus on health, Kaiser Permanente brought a "Weight of the Nation" program to the school earlier this week. ¿The outreach event included a powerful documentary produced by HBO that shows how sugar and fat in foods leads to disease and other
"It was really shocking," said Isabel Torres, 18, of Bay Point. "It makes you more aware of what you're going to put in your mouth. Like, instead of lemonade, water. It's really life-altering. I don't drink soda anymore."
Figueroa was part of a youth leadership team that helped produce the Kaiser-funded event for the whole school. The students watched an excerpted portion of the documentary, along with a humorous short film starring student leaders that showed the negative effects of poor diets. They devoured sugary liquids and fat-filled foods, got a temporary buzz, then sprawled out on couches and floors, lethargic and devoid
After watching the films, all 1,300 students at the school were treated to a lunch of brown rice, low-fat chili, salad, strawberries and peaches. Several elected officials also attended the screening and lunch, where they were challenged to take actions that will encourage healthy eating and active living in the community.
"Obesity really is influencing -- in a bad way -- the health of our nation," said Marianne Balin, community benefit manager for Kaiser. The goal of this and other similar events being held in communities around the country is to reduce the weight of the nation, she said. Tom Torlakson, state superintendent of public instruction, praised the program as a model.
"This is setting the pace for 10,000 schools in California and 6.5 million students that need to do programs like this," he said.
Many students in the school's healthy cooking class are already eating more fruits and vegetables based on what they've learned from teacher Cindy Gershen, who founded the nonprofit Wellness City Challenge to educate the community about the importance of nutrition and exercise.
"Chef Cindy has made a difference in our diets, including mine," said 16-year-old Stephanie Figueroa, of Concord.
Teacher Pam Deane said her students understand that many foods and beverages marketed to teens are not healthy.
"Students wonder why the food industry is trying to kill them," she said.
To reach younger children, Kaiser awarded the Mt. Diablo school district a $21,559 grant to fund eight salad bars in elementary schools. The HMO also hopes to¿ bring its "Weight of the Nation" program to Pittsburg High, Balin said.
Torres said she has more energy now that she is eating healthier foods, drinking more water and getting more exercise. She has grown to like spinach and asks her parents to buy fresh vegetables, instead of frozen foods.
Her tastes have changed so much, she said, that she no longer enjoys soda.
"Now, if I drink it," Torres said, "it tastes really sugary and gross."
1. More home-cooked family meals
2. Fewer sugary drinks
3. More play time
4. Colorful plates, half full of vegetables
1. Healthy foods at meetings
2. Walk while meeting
3. Use stairs instead of elevators
1. Healthy class snacks, parties and rewards
2. Bike or walk to school
3. Increase physical activity to improve academic performance
Source: Kaiser Permanente
For more information or to order "Weight of the Nation" screening kits, DVDs and guides, visit www.kp.org/weightofthenation.
Additional details are in the On Assignment blog at http://www.ibabuzz.com/onassignment.