Researchers help school eat healthy

Temple researchers are working to help make Wilson Jr. High School in Northeast Philadelphia healthier through a two-year health program study.

Wilson is one of 42 schools nationwide where the study was conducted. Six of the schools are located within the Philadelphia area.

The study was intended to show how a change in environment can help reduce obesity and diabetes risk factors among children. Dr. Gary Foster of Temple’s Center For Obesity Research and Education said researchers hope to find fewer kids who are overweight with high glucose levels by the study’s completion date next spring.

Along with healthier food choices, the schools that participated were required to implement at least 225 minutes of physical activity a week in their physical education programs.

The study at Wilson began more than a year ago with a group of sixth graders, all of whom are now in seventh grade. In order to be a participant in the study, Wilson had to meet certain requirements. The school was needed to have more than 50 percent of its students eligible for school lunch, and a student body with more than 50 percent minorities.

“This is one of the largest studies. What makes it unique is it is among kids with the highest risk of obesity,” Foster said. “We’ve now enrolled 5,400 children in this study.”

Foster said the idea of a program like the health study at the university level would be a “great opportunity,” but noted there would be challenges, specifically in the physical education department.

“There is a great opportunity to study the types of foods offered at Temple, and whether or not environmental changes to the food service can impact the weight status of university students,” Foster said.

Kylee Messner can be reached at