Three Provo elementary schools and their neighborhood grocery stores are the first organizations in Utah County to participate in Project Lean.
Project Lean is an education program aimed at reducing fat in the American diet. The Kaiser Family Foundation, headquartered in Menlo Park, Calif., is funding the national project.The City-County Health Department is administering the program. Director Joseph Miner said efforts are under way to bring the program to seven fifth-grade classrooms.
Timpanogos, Provost and Edgemont elementary schools are participating.
The program goal stated in the contract between the health department and Project Lean is to reduce dietary fat intake in the target population from present levels to 30 percent of calories by 1998.
"Almost 40 percent of the calories in the average American diet come from fat," the contract says. "The recommended dietary fat intake is no more than 30 percent of the total calories.
"Diets high in fat have been linked to five of the 10 leading causes of death in the United States, including heart disease and some cancers."
"Community education takesyears," said Miner. It takes many years for people to get used to the idea of choosing lower-fatfoods. "One cannot change behavior overnight."
Seat belts are a good example, Miner said. They've been around for 30 years, but only in the past few years have people have started wearing them regularly. Even now, city use is only about 25 percent, he said.
Altering food choices can be even more difficult. While the ill effects of not wearing a seat belt can be demonstrated quickly, said Miner, the effects of fat in the diet are 40 to 50 years down the road for most children.
Utah County Health Department Educator Clark Swenson is directing the local program. "It's been going in the state for about a year," Swenson said. "Davis and Wasatch counties have already implemented it with great success."
Swenson expects classroom instruction in Provo to begin after the first of the year. He said the curriculum is being developed now.
Sarah Samuels, project director for the Kaiser Family Foundation, said, "We have funded 10 states to do the campaign, from all regions. Some programs are statewide and others are regional. Some are rural.
"Utah has a variety of different sites. Some are rural and others suburban. Each project is funded at roughly the same level of $70,000 for two years, with matching funds from local governments or businesses."
The Utah County program has $9,800, according to the contract submitted to the Utah County Commission Tuesday.
Reading the labels
Package labeling can be deceptive if a consumer does not know how to read the labels correctly, said Utah County Health Department Director Joseph Miner.
A product may be advertised as only 20 percent fat, said Miner, when the percentage of calories from fat is actually much higher.
For example, if a product label says 2 grams fat, 4 grams carbohydrates and 4 grams protein, an uninformed consumer may assume the product is only 20 percent fat.
But, Miner said, the calorie content of fat is roughly three times the calorie count of carbohydrates or protein. In the above example, fat makes up about 43 percent of the calories.
Project Lean in Utah County has three specific objectives:
- Implement a "low-fat" curriculum in seven fifth-grade classes by May 1991.
- Conduct a supermarket campaign by June 1991, which will include shelf labeling, low-fat recipes, distribution and sampling, low-fat demonstrations and grocery bag messages.
- Help the district develop a program aimed at getting students to make low-fat cafeteria selections by June 1991.