Schools in Somerville, Massachusetts have been tackling the growing problem of childhood obesity with a lot of success – and they didn’t even have to institute a strict ban on every food that could be considered “junk.” Instead they relied on education and, with a town-wide effort, they were able to bring childrens’ year weight gains to normal levels, increase the amount that kids exercised and turned more than a few kids on to how delicious veggies are.
The purpose of the experiment was “to prevent weight gain over and above what [the kids] need to for [normal] development” and it worked, with overweight kids losing weight and average, or below average kids, growing healthily. Rates of weight gain were lower than those of nearby communities.
To achieve these results, the town called on school lunchrooms, teachers, after-care, parents, local newspapers and restaurants. Fruits and vegetables were promoted, school kitchens got revamped (with the help of grants) so that they could have more control over the food preparation and teachers were given coaching on “ways to incorporate lessons about healthy eating and exercise into the curriculum.” Parents were sent weekly tips on healthy eating, as well as coupons for healthy foods (brown rice, whole grain bread, etc.), and local restaurants pitched in by adding a couple of healthier items to their normal menus.