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Grade-School Girls to Governor: No Fat Chicks Wanted 

Local Matters

MONTPELIER -- Vermont's school-aged girls told Governor Jim Douglas this week that it's time for his administration to cut the fat -- literally.

On Tuesday, the governor was presented with the results of a statewide survey compiled by more than 100 young girls from 20 Vermont towns. The fifth- to eighth-graders were asked to rank their communities according to whether they are "good walking towns," "active towns," and "good eating towns." The towns and cities in the survey included Burlington, Montpelier, St. Albans, Colchester, Rutland and Middlebury.

The survey found that the 20 Vermont towns did best on such measures as providing healthy eating opportunities for parents at work, the number of local convenience stores that offer healthy snacks, and the availability of farmers' markets that sell fresh fruits and vegetables.

But at least one-third of the towns ranked poorly on the presence of soft drink and candy machines in schools, the proximity of large grocery stores and the availability of restaurants that offer heart-healthy menu options.

The presentation also included recommendations for keeping girls -- and boys -- healthy and on the go, including keeping town sidewalks clear of snow and ice year-round, encouraging local restaurants to offer healthy and affordable meals, removing candy and soda from school vending machines, and providing kids with gym time every day. It also recommended keeping school gyms open in the evenings and on weekends to encourage more physical activities.

The girls were all participants in "Run, Girl, Run," a yearlong program created by the Vermont Department of Health. It uses games, interactive learning and training workouts to expose middle-school girls to healthy lifestyle choices. The program begins with an intensive, eight-week summer session where the girls train for a five-kilometer race. It also teaches them about healthy nutrition, resisting peer pressure and eating disorders, and how to develop a positive self-image.

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The Battle of the Bulge by the Numbers

- 1 in 5 Children in the United States who are overweight.

- 26% Vermont 8th- to 12th-graders who are overweight for their age and height.

- 14% Vermont 8th- to 12th-graders who have daily physical education classes.

- 36% Vermont 8th- to 12th-graders who spend three or more hours per day playing video games, watching TV, or playing with computers.

- 40,000+ Estimated number of TV ads children see each year.

-32% Amount of child-targeted TV ads that promote candy.

- 7 out of 10 Ads on "Channel One" classroom television that promote fast foods, candy, soft drinks or snack chips.

- $3 billion Advertising dollars spent in 2002 by fast-food companies targeting children.

- 70% Children ages 6 to 8 in one study who said, "Fast food is more nutritious than home-cooked meals."

- $3.5 million 2004 ad budget for the National Cancer Institute's "5 a Day" campaign, designed to promote fruits and vegetables.

- $209 million 2004 ad budget for Coca-Cola.

- $665 million 2004 ad budget for McDonald's.

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About The Author

Ken Picard

Ken Picard

Bio:
Ken Picard has been a Seven Days staff writer since 2002. He has won numerous awards for his work, including the Vermont Press Association's 2005 Mavis Doyle award, a general excellence prize for reporters.

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