Nearly one-third of American children are overweight or at risk of becoming so. But the childhood obesity epidemic can be corrected by making significant changes in eating habits and lifestyles, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  

Reversing the obesity rate requires an approach that includes schools, families and communities. That’s why the National Food Service Management Institute at the University of Mississippi has set out to prove that healthful and great-tasting food for children can and should be served by everyone.  

The result is Cooks for Kids, a satellite training program launched last fall that celebrates healthy eating and highlights best cooking practices used in schools across the country. The nine-episode series focuses on the responsibility of families, schools and restaurants to offer healthful food choices to combat childhood obesity.  

Each episode offers tips on preparing healthful, child-friendly meals. Programs that have already aired via satellite can be viewed online and on some PBS stations. Handouts and a schedule of upcoming episodes are also available.  

“Spring Salads,” slated to air April 10, focuses on ways to prepare salads as a side dish or main course, and the episode features a school that inspires its students with a campus garden. “Wrap It Up With Wraps” airs May 8. Previous episodes available by webcast include “Sumptuous Soups,” “Healthy Whole Grain Breads” and “Fruits Go Back to School.”  

Cooks can learn how to incorporate locally grown fruits and vegetables into meals, and restaurant professionals offer tips on producing nutritious and appealing dishes.  

“Obesity may be a personal issue, but it adversely affects everyone,” says Charlotte Oakley, NFSMI executive director. “We all bear the responsibility of helping to promote healthier eating, especially for our children.”  

Suggested Reading

Photo courtesy of the National Food Service Management Institute