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Georgia Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, Kirk Farquharson of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Richie Knight of Georgia 4-H. (Photo courtesy of Dole)

ATLANTA -- Georgia high school students will have a chance to win a new salad bar for their schools through a contest launched Oct. 16 at the Produce Marketing Association's Fresh Summit convention, here, and sponsored by Dole Food Co. Inc. in partnership with Georgia Lieutenant Gov. Casey Cagle's Healthy Kids Georgia program and the Georgia 4-H.

The "Raise the Salad Bar" will provide new salad bars for the three Georgia high schools that submit the best student-produced essays or videos about how their schools are working to meet Georgia's health education standards.

Childhood obesity in Georgia has reached what experts say are epidemic levels. Billboards around Atlanta featuring photos of overweight children warn parents of a burgeoning wave of childhood hypertension. Lieutenant Governor Cagle's program was created when researched revealed that almost one-quarter of Georgia students are considered obese by the time they reach third grade.

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Diane Harris of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, Nancy Rice and Larry Winter of the Georgia Department of Education and Marty Ordman of Dole Food Co. (Photo courtesy of Dole)

"Health issues like diabetes, high blood pressure and low self-esteem all have the effect of holding our children back and keeping them from reaching their true potential," said Lieutenant Governor Cagle. "Georgia's youth deserve to be given the tools to live a happy and healthy life. We have the opportunity through our schools to lead by example in teaching our children wellness and proper nutrition."

The salad bar contest is designed to help create healthier school environments, giving Georgia students fruit and vegetable options that correlate with better heart health, lowered cancer risk, better brain function and increased lifespan.

"This partnership is a perfect match for Dole's overall mission to encourage a healthy lifestyle in children," said Marty Ordman, vice president of marketing and communications for Dole. "Teaching healthy habits and showing young people that fruits and vegetables can be tasty is a key step in maintaining good eating habits in adults."

The deadline for students to submit entries for the salad bar contest is Feb. 3. To find out more, go to www.raisethesaldbar.com.