Maine Tackles Obesity-Rest of Nation to Follow?

Maine's official state motto is Dirigo--Latin for
Cathy Arnst

Maine's official state motto is Dirigo--Latin for "To Lead." It sounds like they are leading the way toward tackling obesity. You may have an image of this mostly rural state as filled with Paul Bunyan-like outdoorsmen, but in fact Maine has the highest rates of obesity in New England. According to a new series of articles on the problem in the Portland Press Herald, there is some movement to address the problem, especially in the schools. For one thing, the state is actually using part of its share of the billions won from tobacco companies as part of a 1998 multi-state settlement for health related initiatives. Most states have lumped that money into their general treasuries. According to the Herald article:

"A small army of health educators funded by settlement money from tobacco companies is working in 31 communities to promote better health. Past efforts by Healthy Maine Partnerships have included distributing thousands of pedometers to schools across the state and encouraging schools to open their doors to the public for indoor exercise."
The most impressive are some of the actions being implemented in Maine's schools, such as doing jumping jacks during math class.

Again, from the Herald:


Students here can't seem to get enough of daily classroom workouts. It's been that way since they became part of a first-in-Maine policy implemented this year in grades K-8 of School Union 106.
Mathematics teachers lead students in jumping jacks while reciting multiplication tables. In social studies, students memorize the continents while performing a song and a skit. Some teachers prefer to take students for walks outside.
No minimum time has been set, but some teachers say they add up to 20 minutes of exercise on certain days. This is on top of 40-minute physical education classes twice a week, and at least two hours of recess a week. Most students at Calais Elementary also participate in the 90-minute after-school program."

I love that these kids are learning to incorporate activities into their daily routines. Plenty of kids stay active by playing team sports, but they probably won't continue soccer or football or whatever once they are grown. To raise a future healthy adult, you have to get your kids interested in activities they can do all their lives--tennis, running, cycling or the like.

Check out the Press Herald series, it might give you some ideas to advance at your next PTA meeting--or at home.

By the way, Maine makes me think of seafood, and in that vein, I thought I'd offer a recipe for shrimp scampi that replaces the loads of traditional butter with olive oil, but is still pretty delicious. I got it from the Weight Watchers web site, where you can find lots of health recipes.

Serves: 4 (250 Calories 8g Fat 1g Fiber)

1-1/4 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 cup dry Italian bread crumbs
3 Tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp lemon rind, grated (optional)
1/4 tsp salt
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
4 tsp olive oil

Preheat oven to 400F.
Coat casserole dish with cooking spray.
Place shrimp in dish; set aside.
Combine breadcrumbs, parsley, lemon rind and salt; stir in lemon juice and olive oil.
Sprinkle breadcrumb mixture over shrimp.
Place dishes on a baking sheet.
Bake for 13 minutes.