Don’t Mess With Texas Children
Dr. Oz and Gracie Cavnar Whip Up a Recipe for Success
Gracie Cavnar and Dr. Mahmet Oz at “A Harverst Luncheon with Dr. Oz” benefiting Recipe for Success.
Ideally, the adage “Everything is Bigger in Texas” describes the size of t-bone steaks served in Texas saloons, or our sprawling state’s land mass. Unfortunately, the saying now refers to many local children, and a soaring childhood obesity rate is nothing to brag about. Nearly 50 percent of Houston area 4th graders are overweight or obese, and thus at risk for developing type 2 diabetes and other health problems. These unsettling statistics prompted Gracie Cavnar to establish Recipe for Success, an organization dedicated to battling this fierce health crisis. Cavnar called in the expert: Dr. Mehmet Oz, cardiac surgeon and frequent contributor to “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”
Dr. Oz’s proactive health movement, HealthCorps, aims to decrease childhood obesity through school-based peer-mentoring, community events, and outreach to highly affected neighborhoods. For the 2008-2009 school year, HealthCorps established its program in 45 schools, including KIPP Houston High.
Modeled after the Peace Corps, the program enlists aspiring health professionals to serve as coordinators at each school site. Coordinators work with teachers and school administrators to implement the HealthCorps curriculum. The program stresses the importance of maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine, while arming students with the knowledge and skills necessary to achieve optimal health and educate their peers and families.
“The only way to reverse the problem is to teach kids how sacred their bodies are,” Oz says. Many HealthCorps Coordinators are recent college graduates who, as Oz puts it, “are making health cool and hip.”
In April, Dr. Oz and HealthCorps recognized Cavnar with an award for her efforts. The two have since formed a partnership between their organizations to further their common cause and broaden their reach to more young people.
Cavnar’s grassroots effort aims to change the way children understand and eat food. The program operates in five Houston ISD elementary schools, where the majority of students receive free or reduced priced lunch. Its Chefs in Schools program involves forty-three of Houston’s premiere chefs who teach fourth graders how to cook and host field trips to their restaurants.
“We share a passion for taking change straight to the children before destructive patterns are in place,” Cavnar says of herself and Dr. Oz. “Recipe for Success is honored to be associated with such a dynamic agent for change.”
Did you know?
- Since 1980, childhood obesity rates have more than tripled nationally.
- 26 percent of Houston area teenagers are obese.
- A study of 186 Texas schools revealed that the average high school lunch contains 816 calories and 28 grams of fat.
- Obesity and overweight issues cost taxpayers $9 billion annually.
- In response to the obesity epidemic at her school, McArthur High health teacher Cathy Roach set up a program modeled after “The Biggest Loser,” motivating 215 students to lose a combined total of 815 pounds.
Gracie Cavnar and Dr. Mahmet Oz: kim coffman; child with lunch: Heidi Anglesey