Officials in Kittitas County have begun working to develop a five-year plan aimed at alleviating obesity among its residents. The plan, made possible by two grants worth $750,000...

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ELLENSBURG — Officials in Kittitas County have begun working to develop a five-year plan aimed at alleviating obesity among its residents.


The plan, made possible by two grants worth $750,000 to the county’s public-health department and the Ellensburg School District, has been dubbed “Shape Up Kittitas County.”


“We’re trying to tackle obesity,” school Superintendent Gretta Merwin said. “It’s our intent to not only teach physical activity, but also healthy eating.”


And it must be a community project, she said.


“We have fast food. We have working parents. We have very little time to run home and fix a meal. We tend, as a nation, to grab something that’s quick. We’re making bad choices,” she said.


Obesity rates in Kittitas County have climbed from 16 percent in 1996 to 28 percent last year, according to the local health department. Nearly one in three Kittitas County residents is obese. In a county with about 35,000 people, that’s close to 10,000 people.


Organizers of the “Shape Up” initiative hope to see people eating more fruits and vegetables, exercising at least 20 minutes a day and losing weight.


A task force is working with education, health and nutrition professors from Central Washington University, as well as dietitians, physicians, physical therapists, parents and school nurses to develop the program.