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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


April 5, 2003 - Issue 84


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Indian Schools Trying to Adjust Fat, Sugar in Meals, Speakers Say

by Carol Bradley Great Falls Tribune

Food GroupsIndian reservations in Montana are trimming sugar and fat from school lunches, offering more fruits and vegetables and banning doughnuts and other junk-food fund-raisers during the school day, officials told a Native American healthy foods summit Friday.

On the Fort Peck Reservation, students themselves prompted the changes. Two seventh-graders launched a boycott of the Poplar school cafeteria after an Indian Health Service study revealed that a surprising number of their peers had developed at least one symptom of impending diabetes, said Allison Failing, head of the school's special ed program.

The students stayed up late making hundreds of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to feed to fellow boycotters. When 85 percent of the student body joined the protest, school administrators knew changes had to be made, Failing said.

Today, the Poplar cafeteria salad bar never runs out of fresh fruits and vegetables the way it used to. Softer lighting has replaced the depressing fluorescent lights that previously cast a purple glow on diners. The cafeteria even sports an aquarium, which helps calm students before they return to class.

Failing and others told their success stories to Native American school and health officials from across Montana at the conference, subtitled "Defeating Diabetes!"

Although the diabetes rate among Plains Indian youths is lower than the national average, 39 percent of Native American schoolchildren nationwide are overweight, Brenda Broussard, a consulting nutritionist from Albuquerque, told the 100 or so attendees at Benefis West.

In New Mexico, Broussard said, she's treating two 4-year-olds who suffer from Type 2 diabetes, which used to be something only adults developed. "That should scare the socks off you," Broussard said.

At three Indian schools in southeastern Montana -- St. Labre in Ashland, the St. Charles Mission in Pryor and Pretty Eagle Catholic School in St. Xavier -- Crow and Northern Cheyenne students are learning to eat smaller portions and do without two or three pounds of butter in their green beans, said Starr Fulmer, the schools' director of food services.

"Some things we have tried have really bombed," she admitted. "Sodium-free tomato soup is terrible."

Fulmer said servers have had to learn not to reward kids by giving them triple-size portions or to mix sour cream into the ranch dressing mix. The food service employees at St. Labre have joined the battle against obesity by adding up their individual weights, then tracking the number of gallons of water they consume and the amount of walking they accomplish each day.

Six times around the cafeteria and down the hallways equals one mile, Fulmer said. The workers know because they spend 20 minutes a day making the rounds, single file.

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  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.  

Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.

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