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'Childhood obesity is on the rise': Healthy eating on menu in Coos County

Kids at Madison Elementary in Coos Bay are going bananas for this healthy take on a breakfast treat. (SBG)

COOS BAY, Ore. - The state of Oregon ranks high for diabetes and obesity. Now something is being done to try to lower those numbers.

Kids at Madison Elementary in Coos Bay are going bananas for this healthy take on a breakfast treat.

Oregon State University's extension SNAP education program features a social marketing campaign called "Food Hero." It teaches students about healthy eating and is what the local nutrition coordinator calls a step toward preventing chronic diseases like diabetes.

"If you look at our county health ranks, you'll see that childhood obesity is on the rise, and adulthood obesity as well," Allison Harris said. "That's a big problem here, rates above the state average which is something that concerns us."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nationally, 0.18% of children under the age of 18 have diabetes.

Oregon ranks 31st in the nation in obesity. The Coos Community Health Assessment found an increase in diabetes related deaths, and obesity rates.

Data collected by the Oregon Health Authority in 2017 found 10% of 8th graders and 15% of 11th graders were considered "obese."

Organizers and teachers have seen a difference in children's wellness with the "Food hero" program.

"We see an increase often in the amount of fruits they consume, the vegetables they consume," Harris said. "The goal is to change behaviors, to make the healthy choice the easy choice."

The kids make their snack, they rate it and take home a recipe to allow parents to use the program at home.

Teacher Mary-Margaret Stockert is supportive of the program in her classroom. "In the long run, what we're really hoping is that children will chose the healthier food, over those junk foods, and it will help them be healthy for the rest of their lives."

The Oregon Health Authority said, "Today, too many of us live and work in neighborhoods where it is dangerous to go outside and play, there is no grocery store with affordable fresh produce, and it is difficult or impossible to walk or bike safely. Eating well and moving more help prevent obesity and diabetes, as well as helping people already living with these conditions stay healthy."

Though the school year is almost up, OSU's food hero program is continuing their healthy eating education during the summer, with regular planned presence at farmer's markets and summer camps. Organizers encourage parents to check out more of their recipes at FoodHero.org

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