A new report is raising more questions about what Iowa children are eating and how much they exercise. The 2007 Trust for America’s Health report claims more than 1 in 10 kids in Iowa are considered obese. Elaine Watkins-Miller, a spokesperson for the Iowa Department of Education, says local school districts are required to meet USDA standards in their lunch programs.
"If they choose to go above and beyond (those requirements), they have that choice," Watkins-Miller says, "and certainly they recognize that’s a benefit to students." The Iowa Department of Education requires all public schools, at all grade levels, to teach physical education. However, the state does not specify the length of PE classes.
Watkins-Miller says, "Physical education must be taught, but there’s leeway in local decisions determining time allocation and content specifications." The state requires that PE classes in grades 9 through 12 include activities that "increase cardiovascular endurance and muscular strength." State officials visit schools to make sure they’re doing so.
"We do have consultants that go out and review districts on a variety of accreditation items about every five years," Watkins-Miller says, "so that’s part of that process." Trust for America’s Health says Iowa has the 35th highest rate of overweight youths in the nation.