Newton South’s advantage over obesity

By Annie Orenstein
Published: September 2009

Doctor Phil. Oprah. Tyra Banks. All of these popular TV personalities have hosted a fair amount of episodes on the epidemic that is literally taking us by storm: the issue of obesity in America. According to a test conducted in Waltham this summer by the Massachusetts Medical Society’s Committee on Nutrition and Physical Activity, one in five Massachusetts inhabitants are considered obese, and childhood obesity is even worse: nearly 30 percent of middle and high school students are overweight or obese. 

The school cafeteria food might be to blame. “Three-fourths of schools in the United States serve foods with more than acceptable amounts of fat, the Charleston Gazette reported in a 2008 article. This staggering statistic hasn’t gone unnoticed. In the February 2009, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) restricted fat to only 30 percent of a lunch’s total calories, but only 25 percent of the schools randomly tested within the United States passed that test. “Eighty percent of schools serve combinations of foods that meet the federal guidelines and those that do not, but students do not usually make the healthiest options, the USDA stated in their report.

States like California and New York however, have recently passed bans on having junk food in vending machines, making national news on their dedication to their students’ health.

Getting rid of Physical Education in American high schools has also become a recently and has contributed to the rising growth in obese teens as well. “Lower standardized scores mean no more Gym classes; academics are now more important, said History teacher Lisa SooHoo in her Race, Class, and Gender class on Monday.
“Schools don’t want to be last on their states’ standardized scores rank.

Some of the causes of adolescent obesity are clearly present here at Newton South, including stress, changes in routines, and problems in social situations. So how do we avoid contracting the obesity bug? Believe it or not, our school has taken many measures to make sure that we keep our students happy and healthy.
Wellness classes are designed to have both the mental and physical health of the South student in mind. One of the classes offered for juniors and seniors is Yoga and Pilates class, concentrating in lowering stress levels by meditation. Cardiovascular training and resistance training are also classes offered to seniors in order to get their blood pumping.

Along with this, freshman and sophomores are required to run the mile as a part of their respective curriculums, as well as practice sports like badminton and volleyball. At South, there is a minimum requirement of five semesters worth of Wellness in order to receive a diploma, which is just one of the ways that proves South’s dedication to fitness. When it comes to nutrition in the cafeteria, you might not associate our school with having the most “health conscious options.

On the contrary, compared to some high schools in America, our cafeteria offers a wide variety of health options. According to a San Jose Mercury News article written in 2007, “56.2 percent of schools serve foods such as pizza and hamburgers. 40 percent serve French fries; 50 percent serve bread products and 60 percent serve baked goods that are high in fat.

We attend a high school in which we can watch cafeteria service people make sandwiches right in front of us with a broad selection of meats, veggies, and cheeses. The school cafeteria has also made it clear that they too, care about our health. We have a full salad bar every day, and small 100-calorie packs in the snack bar and vending machines.

Teen obesity in America is a problem, but we are lucky that we attend a school that really cares about our nutrition, and makes it a priority to keep us healthy.

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