The overall average cholesterol level dropped from 162 to 153. Normal cholesterol for children of this age is 160-164, Stewart says. The average blood pressure dropped from 108/67 to 103/65. Both of these decreases are ''statistically significant,'' he adds.
During the same time, the youngsters reported that their consumption of high-fat foods fell 13 percent; high-sodium foods fell 11 percent, and high-sugar foods fell by 7 percent. Consumption was determined by asking the children how often they ate each of 51 foods on a standardized survey.
The assessment also tested the children's knowledge of heart health. The number of correct answers increased by 19 percent from September to May, Stewart says.
Although Gray says parent involvement has been disappointing, many of the children at Grange thought their parents' eating and buying habits had changed.
''My mom used to buy lots of nacho chips,'' says Sabrina Hensley, 10. ''Now, she only buys two bags. She buys lots of apples and fruits.''
''We don't go to fast-food restaurants as much,'' adds Matthew Layman, 10.
Wheeler is particularly proud; she's taking at least some of the credit for getting her mother to lose weight. ''She doesn't like being on a diet,'' says Wheeler, ''but it's helped.''
FRESH has helped Craig Widdowson, too. His cholesterol level dropped nearly 40 points last school year, and he's lost 10 pounds, he says. Widdowson, 10, doesn't eat just because he's bored anymore and he limits his corn curls to Friday nights.
Other schools in the FRESH program are: Bear Creek, Berkshire, Charlesmont, Colgate, Dundalk, Logan, Norwood, Holabird, John Ruhrah, Our Lady of Fatima and Our Lady of Pompeii.
FRESH ideas for a healthy diet
HERE ARE some FRESH ideas for cutting fat from your diet, whatever your age:
* Spread sandwiches with mustard instead of mayonnaise.
* Top baked potatoes with plain, non-fat yogurt instead of sour cream.
* Add lettuce, tomatoes and other vegetables, instead of sauces, to sandwiches for moisture.
* Replace high-fat snacks with lower-fat goodies: apple rings dusted with cinnamon; frozen grapes, pineapple and melon chunks; rice cakes; popcorn without butter.
* Instead of potato chips, try snacking on graham crackers, pretzels or fig bars.
* For lunch, make turkey or chicken sandwiches instead of eating cold cuts or hot dogs.
* Limit meals at fast-food restaurants to two per week.
* At fast-food restaurants, order a "small fry" instead of a larger serving.
* Be wary of salad bars; all ingredients are not low in fat, especially mixed salads made with mayonnaise.
* When ordering a salad in a restaurant, ask for the dressing on the side.
* Enjoy dinner rolls, but forget the butter.
* Eat meatless tacos or tacos with chicken or ground turkey instead of beef.
* Avoid fried or heavily battered foods.
* Drink skim or 2 percent milk instead of whole milk.
* Learn to read food labels, so you can determine the amount of fat in foods.
-- Mary Maushard