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Summit to tackle childhood obesity

By Heidi Meili, Anchor, hmeili@keci.com
Published On: Feb 20 2014 08:32:01 PM MST
Updated On: Feb 20 2014 08:42:35 PM MST
MISSOULA, Mont. -

The latest national statistics suggest one-third of America's children are destined to become diabetic if they keep eating and sitting they way they are right now.  

County officials say Missoula's numbers are very similar to the national statistics.  They say children aren't getting enough activity.

Linda Simon, the Health Services Director for Missoula County Public Schools tells us many more children are overweight than when she began working at the district 16 years ago.  

Lisa Beczkiewicz is the Let's Move Missoula Coordinator.  She tells NBC Montana, "We have been tracking the body mass index of 3rd graders. It has gone up to 28 percent, so that's triple the amount it was 30 years ago."

The stakes are high.

Simon adds, "We see more dental problems, more cavities, and I see a lot more weight problems than I did 16 years ago.  Diabetes has gone up dramatically all across the nation."

Among several reasons, Simon points to daily habits eating high-calorie, low-nutrient food, "We are used to choosing sugary foods.  We don't go for the fruits and vegetables that provide more nutrition."

The county is partnering with government and private organizations to get kids moving and choosing wholesome foods.

Let's Move Missoula says it's important for children to move every 50 minutes.

"It's not a break, it recharges their brain for better learning," says Beczkiewicz.

The county wants community members to answer some hard questions.

"Do we want birthday celebrations always centered around a sugary treat?  Do we want fundraisers to always sell items like cookie dough?" asks Simon.

County officials hope community members will come out to find answers to these questions at a summit at the University of Montana on Friday.

Food For Fuel and Learning takes place from 7:30 a.m. to noon, Friday, February 21 at the University Center at the University of Montana.

Director of the Kids' Safe and Healthful Foods Project at the Pew Charitable Trusts  Jessica Donze Black is speaking.

The goal of the summit is to help schools develop nutritional standards.