PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Temple University’s Center for Obesity Research and Education is digesting a new federal grant to help mothers make better food choices for their children.

The $3.7-million grant is aimed at preventing obesity among low-income preschoolers.

“Our team is deeply committed to raising a healthier next generation of children,” said Dr. Jennifer Orlet Fisher, an associate professor of public health at Temple and the director of the center’s Family Eating Laboratory.

Fisher, the lead researcher on the project, says they hope to give mothers straightforward strategies for being more aware of portion sizes when they put food on the table for children between the ages of two and six.

“We’re working with a behavioral approach, rather than a nutritional science approach, to try to help mothers come up with practical strategies — like the size of the plates that they’re using in the home,” she explains.

Fisher adds that many children who become obese never grow out of it.

They’ll initially work with 150 low-income families in Philadelphia, showing kids how to lose the empty calories and drop their weight.

“We plan to focus this effort on mothers of young children, because we know that preventing obesity in childhood is critical,” Dr. Fisher says.

Pennsylvania state senator Shirley Kitchen, who represents North Philadelphia, says Dr. Fisher has it “exactly right” by targeting preschoolers.

“If we do not start with children aged two and up, then we’ll never be able to change their eating habits,” Kitchen said.

Fisher says the data shows that low-income families are some of the hardest hit by obesity.

Reported by Steve Tawa, KYW Newsradio 1060.

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