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Youth organizations focusing on nutrition, exercise

GREENFIELD — The Communities That Care Coalition, in addition to its work on reducing youth substance abuse, is now focusing on improving nutrition and physical activity among Franklin County children.

At its annual fall meeting earlier this month, coalition leaders stressed that healthy food choices, family dinners and routine physical activity leads to better grades in school. And while many community groups are working on individual projects to help youths in their schools or towns, there can be better collaboration between all of the entities, they said.

Two school projects were featured at the coalition meeting.

In Greenfield, school officials have organized “walk to school” days. Teachers and volunteers walked with about 100 students in an event earlier this month, with both Federal Street and Discovery School at Four Corners participating.

And Gill-Montague School District leaders talked about a “Plant to Plate” program where students grow vegetables, during class and after school, that are then incorporated into the schools’ salad bars.

The coalition plans to release a packet that will contain more information on other school-driven projects that are taking place.

Substance abuse down among eighth-graders

Franklin County eighth-graders are drinking and smoking less often than they were in 2010 and sophomores and seniors are doing so at about the same rate, according to a survey taken by nearly 1,800 eighth-graders, sophomores and seniors last school year.

The coalition surveys students each year, rotating between three different questionnaires, and reported at 72 percent participation rate in those grades this year. Survey results were released at the annual meeting and are available online at

Just under 40 percent of seniors and 50 percent of sophomores say they have tried smoking cigarettes, which is about the same as in 2010. But fewer eighth-graders have tried cigarettes (20 percent compared to 28 percent) and the percentages of students who say they smoked in the past 30 days were down in all three age groups.

Alcohol use among seniors was close to the same as three years ago: 76 percent have tried drinking and 46 percent have done so in the past month.

But the rates decreased for sophomores and eighth-graders.

About 64 percent of sophomores have drank in their lives and 32 percent did so in the past 30 days — compared to 70 percent and 39 percent in 2010. And for eighth-graders, 35 percent have tried it and 13 percent say they did in the past month — compared to 46 percent and 20 percent three years ago.

Marijuana numbers stayed about constant with 2010, increasing barely for seniors and going slightly down for sophomores and eighth-graders.

About 59 percent of seniors reported using marijuana in their lifetime and 33 percent said they did so in the past month. Sophomores reported a 45 percent lifetime use and 27 percent during the past month, while eighth-graders had 18 percent and 9 percent rates, respectively.

You can reach Chris Shores at:
or 413-772-0261, ext. 264

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