AUSTIN (KXAN) - Students at Perez Elementary School in Southeast Austin already have fitness goals they're working towards in physical education. But now they're taking another challenge -- in nutrition -- cutting down on sugar by saying "no" to soda during the school week.
"It's bad for you and has a lot of calories. It's not good for you," said Perez Elementary School third-grader Daisy Lopez.
"You can't purchase a soft drink if you're a student here at Perez Elementary already," said Dr. Stephen Pont, medical director of Austin Independent Student Health Services. "What we really want to do is to help kids continue to be healthy when they get home as well."
Leaders from AISD and Dell Children's Medical Center are challenging parents, too -- reminding them to avoid sugary soft drinks in order to fight obesity and improve brain function. The goal is to abstain from soda Monday through Friday until school ends next spring.
"Our parents want the best for their kids too, and when they understand the dangers and the harm that come from over consumption of sugar.. over consumption of fat... then they respond and start to make their kids make better choices too," said David Kauffman, principal of Perez Elementary School.
The idea actually originated in a grassroots health network of parents in East Austin where childhood obesity is a concern. They want families to know they have choices.
"We give them water or pineapple juice," said parent Edgar Chacon. "It's pineapple water, basically. We take the pineapple and blend it with water, and there's that natural sweetness in there."
Healthier options make healthier students -- and hopefully results in more productive learning.
One-third of the school-age children in Austin are obese, according to Seton Healthcare spokeswoman Matilda Sanchez. "Physicians are seeing more and more adult health conditions -- such as diabetes, depression, heart disease and hypertension -- occurring in young children."
Sanchez referred to a recent study which also shows there are reductions in cognitive function and brain structure in teenagers with metabolic syndrome, which is a complication of obesity. Some of the main culprits are the intake of soft drinks and other surgary drinks.
Organizers encourage families to share their stories of how the challenge is going -- what's working, what's not -- on a blog they have set up as a support system.
Families who want to accept the challenge can text "nosodas" to 84444 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org .
The project is supported by the "Community Transformation Grant," a five-year grant to the Austin-Travis County Health and Human Services by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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