According to the American Obesity Association, approximately 15% of children and adolescents are obese, and the numbers appear to be on the rise. Many health professionals believe that consumption of soyfoods is an important part of a healthy diet and potentially part of the solution to childhood obesity. This knowledge has prompted U.S. soybean producers, through the soybean checkoff, to get involved in the fight against childhood obesity.

The soybean checkoff developed an innovative CD-ROM and accompanying website that provides quick and easy information to food service professionals about incorporating soy into existing menu planning.

"Obesity has been identified as a huge problem among elementary and high-school-age children in our country," says Janice Peterson, United Soybean Board (USB) Domestic Marketing Chair and soybean producer from Bloomington, IN. "What we found when we put our heads together on this was that U.S. soy can play a healthful role in reducing childhood obesity."

The CD-ROM is structured as a narrative that takes the user through a mystery story titled "Max Glycine and the Case of the Vanishing Man." The framework is lighthearted, but the message is serious. The website (www.solveobesity.com) and CD-ROM include links to everything from "How Soy Protein Can Help Solve Obesity" to "Definitions of All Those Soyfood Words and Products."

Both the CD-ROM and the website offer delicious recipes for everything from sloppy joes and chili to cheesecake and parfaits that include soy. Although most of the recipes are designed for institutional use, many recipes can be prepared in portions for individual consumers. All of the recipes detail the protein, fat calories and carbohydrates per serving down to the milligram.

As Peterson points out, the goal is "to teach and to demonstrate that there are ways to incorporate soy to lower fat in the diet." With little change to their existing program, food service professionals can, at no cost, actively and positively respond to this national problem.

So far, the distribution of these CDs has been a success. At a recent conference of the American School Food Service Association, representatives of the soybean checkoff discussed the project with many of the attendees and handed out 200 of the CD-ROMs. In attendance were foodservice directors from major cities and representatives from the food industry.

Additional information on this program and other soybean checkoff initiatives can be found at www.unitedsoybean.org.

USB is made up of 61 farmer-directors who oversee the investments of the soybean checkoff on behalf of all U.S. soybean farmers. As stipulated in the Soybean Promotion, Research and Consumer Information Act, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has oversight responsibilities for USB and the soybean checkoff.

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