Fifth-graders in Davis School District will be part of what is hoped to be a model for helping Americans eat more healthful foods.

The Utah Health Department, in conjunction with the health departments in Davis and Wasatch counties, has received a $70,000 grant to teach students how to select low-fat foods for their diets, according to Todd Thompson, health promotion specialist with the Davis County Health Department.Some 100 fifth-grade classes, the school lunch program and a chain of three supermarkets in Davis County will be involved in the project. Teachers will begin receiving training in the program in late January and early February.

The program is part of Project LEAN or Low-fat Eating for America Now, sponsored by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation of Menlo Park, Calif. The national campaign's goal is to reduce the fat in the American diet from 37 to 30 percent.

"We believe these local Project LEAN programs may provide the blueprint for change at the state and community levels," said Marshall Kreuter, with the national Centers for Disease Control's Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

Through a variety of activities, the campaign is striving to increase the availability of low-fat foods at supermarkets, restaurants and school and work-site cafeterias.

"(In Davis County) Project LEAN will help educate fifth-graders on how to make wise food choices involving fat, sodium and sugar in their diets. Hopefully it will help in their cholesterol levels," said Lynn Trenbeath, director of Davis District's school food service.

Along with a special curriculum taught in the classrooms, school lunch programs at three schools will offer healthy alternatives. For example, students will be able to choose baked potatoes instead of fries and 2-percent milk instead of whole milk, Trenbeath said.

Students will also be given tours of Winegar's grocery stores, learning to read labels for nutritional information, Thompson said.

Thompson said the county's Planned Approach to Community Health coalition helped prepare the application for the grant because of its concern that coronary disease is the number one health risk in Davis County.

Thompson said he hopes some of the student instruction rubs off on the eating habits of their parents and families.

"We hope it will give them knowledge that will help their parents make appropriate choices," Thompson said.

Wasatch County was included in the grant to help boost the grant application's chances by providing an urban-rural mix. In Wasatch County, 10 teachers will be trained to instruct their students in the program. A grocery store will also participate in the program.

The Utah grant was one of 10 awarded from among 35 applications nationwide. Some $700,000 will be spent on projects in Arizona, California, Maryland, New York, Nebraska, Rhode Island, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia over two years.,

"One of the reasons I believe we were chosen is because we were one of the few that targeted a school district," said Thompson.

Davis County will receive $30,000 and Wasatch County $5,000 to start the program in 1990. If the pilot program in Davis and Wasatch counties is successful, other communities in the state could be added in 1991, Thompson said.

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(Additional information)

LEAN hotline

In conjunction with a national education campaign that includes programs in Davis and Wasatch counties, a toll-free hotline has been established to help consumers reduce fat in their diets. Those interested can call 1-800-EAT-LEAN for a free brochure called "LEAN Toward Health."