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2002 News from Mecklenburg County

September 4, 2002 


Charlotte, NC – The Mecklenburg County Health Department is making strides toward empowering the community to battle an alarming epidemic—childhood obesity. 

A collaboration between the Health Department, REACH 2010 and other health and human services agencies has established the "Winner's Circle" Healthy Dining Program in all Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools. 

The "Winner's Circle" program identifies healthy menu items with a purple star and a gold fork logo.  Menu items marked with the logo have been assessed by a registered dietician to ensure that fat and sodium contents are within recommended guidelines.  The program emphasizes a diet of fruits, vegetables and grains as a basis for disease prevention and healthy weight. 

 "We know that in addition to exercise, eating right is an important part of achieving and maintaining a healthy weight," says Mecklenburg County Health Director Peter Safir.  "The "Winner's Circle" program will make that part of the equation simpler by making healthy food choices easy to recognize." 

Health Department and school nutritionists are educating Charlotte-Mecklenburg School (CMS) staff and students about the "Winner's Circle", and a page in the new CMS student handbook that goes to all parents is dedicated to explaining the program.  

In partnering with CMS, the "Winner's Circle" program will initially reach more than 100,000 students and their parents.  Kristen Shaben, a Health Department nutritionist and REACH 2010 project coordinator for the "Winner's Circle", says the next step is getting restaurants on board.  Research shows that families now eat out as many as five or six times a week. 

The number of obese children has doubled in the last 20 years, while the cost of treating obesity-related illnesses in children—like diabetes, sleep apnea and high blood pressure, has tripled.  If overweight children are left to grow into overweight adults, those trends are forecast to continue. 

The Health Department leads a new task force charged with devising community-wide answers toward addressing this epidemic.  The Task Force for Healthy Weight in Children and Youth is scheduled to offer suggestions to the Board of County Commissioners this fall.

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