Should You Tell Your Kid That They’re Fat?

There is a new campaign in Georgia called Strong4Life. The campaign is using stark videos and in your face tactics to get the attention of Georgia’s parents on the obesity epidemic facing the children of their state. The site is full of statistics that would make any parent worry about the health of their children.

From their FAQ:

  • Nearly one million kids in Georgia are overweight or obese
  • 75% of parents in Georgia who have overweight or obese children  do not recognize the problem
  • Georgia’s obesity costs are estimated to be 2.4 billion per year due to the rise in this epidemic

The videos are striking and quite direct.

The arguments against these ads are that they shame kids. Do they need the ads to tell them, when often times they are teased and picked on in school? If a kid, through some miracle, was unaware of societies general perception of the obese, would telling them miraculously solve all of the problems that caused them to be overweight to begin with?

 

Instead of spending money pointing out that there is a problem, which is clear to anyone with two eyes and some sense, the money would be better spent fixing the issues surrounding it. Spending money teaching parents to cook healthy, fresh foods. Subsidizing fresh foods to make them more affordable. Education about what healthy eating is. The great part of the fact that this issue is impacting children, is that they are captive audience in school for ten months out of the year. This is the best opportunity to encourage movement with recess and sports programs and to teach children how to make healthy choices when it comes to food.

Do you think this ad program is helpful or hurtful?

Childhood Obesity And Food Insecurity: What You Can Do To Help

A recent headline caught my attention, a 200 pound eight year old was taken from his mother and put into foster care. The state, Ohio, indicates that the child’s obesity is so severe, that it is tantamount to child abuse. Without more details, it is difficult to come to any conclusion as to what the mother was doing to help the child lose weight or if there are existing health problems that can cause rapid weight gain, the fact that stories like this are becoming more common are worrying.

Why is childhood obesity reaching epidemic levels?

The problem is very complicated because it is not only about diet and exercise but socio-economic realities, living environment, and the corporatization of our food supply.

Many people, especially in urban environments, live in food deserts. It can make purchasing fresh foods difficult. I experienced this first hand when I was a college student living in Baltimore without a car. The closest grocery store was much further than walking distance. My only option to purchase food was to buy food from a local corner store where fresh foods were very hard to come by or take some kind of transport (cab or bus) to the grocery store and purchase what I could carry. If you are unsure whether you live in a food desert, you can use this locator. Enter an address and check to see how many people in your area are living in this terrible circumstance.  Below is an example of one of a food desert map. The highlighted areas are places where grocery stores are difficult to get to.

Food_Desert_Polk_County_Florida

Children are spending too much time in front of the TV/computer/video games and not enough time playing outside. Couple this with cuts to gym classes, parks and recreation departments, and sports in schools, leads to many inactive children.

The economy is terrible and when food is scarce, people often choose to eat the cheapest and most filling items they can buy. No one should ever have to choose between electricity and food but these types of decisions are made every day. Processed foods are cheap but often devoid of nutrients. They are also filled with heavily subsidized commodities (like corn). We did better as a nation when we ate local, fresh, and less processed foods.

What You Can Do

Volunteer with a community garden. The Polk County Young Democrats were lucky enough to volunteer with the first community garden in our county. This garden is able to donate fruits and vegetables to food pantries and has local school children come in to learn about gardening. Community Gardens are a great way to improve an empty lot and can make a huge difference at a time when food pantries are running low on items because of the needs.

Polk County Young Democrats Green Thumb Community Garden

Get involved in your local school district to ensure school lunches and breakfasts are healthy. From the USDA:

The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) was established under the
National School Lunch Act (NSLA), signed by President Harry Truman in
1946, to “safeguard the health and well-being of the Nation’s children and
to encourage the domestic consumption of nutritious agricultural commodities
and other foods.” The NSLP has grown to become the second largest
U.S. food and nutrition assistance program in both numbers of children
served—30 million in 2006—and Federal dollars spent—8 billion in 2006.
Almost 60 percent of American children age 5-18 participate in the program
at least once per week. Almost half of all lunches served are provided free to
students, with an additional 10 percent provided at reduced prices. Although
schools are not required to offer NSLP meals, 94 percent of schools, both
public and private, choose to participate in the program. NSLP accounts for
17 percent of the total Federal expenditures for all food and nutrition assistance
programs.

School lunch and breakfast are two of the best ways to combat childhood obesity and food insecurity in children. For great and in-depth information about what parents and other concerned citizens are doing, please read Lunch Wars by Amy Kalafa.

Volunteer with a local food pantry. Not just for the holiday season but these non-profits need help and donations year round. To find a local food pantry, please visit Feed America and enter your zip code for local resources.

Childhood obesity and food insecurity in children are reaching epidemic levels in our society but there are ways to prevent it. It requires us all to work together to make sure that no one in this country goes to sleep food insecure and that everyone has access to nutritious and fresh foods.

Lunch Wars

Lunch_Wars_

(Source)

We have an epidemic in this country. From children going hungry to childhood obesity, there is one program that can make a huge difference and that is the school lunch program. Lunch Wars by Amy Kalafa is a comprehensive reference for parents, educators, and other concerned citizens who know we have a problem but are unsure how we can fix it. The book was inspired by the movie that Amy produced and directed called Two Angry Moms. Her journey begins with Amy, on assignment for Martha Stewart Living Magazine, interviewing chef Ann Cooper who was running the Ross Schools wellness program in Long Island. She knew then that she would be back to do a documentary on school food.

Lunch Wars reads like a manifesto for school food activists. The information ranges from government policies from the USDA and the historical place the school lunch program has to combating hunger, to how the government subsidies free or reduced lunches. It is peppered with stories of real activists that were able to make changes in their communities whether through community gardens, eliminating vending and snack foods, or serving meals family style to reduce waste and encourage a communal atmosphere. These stories are very inspirational and you can see the various ways people are able to get real food into schools, even while maintaining a profitable lunch program.

I particularly liked the chapter on working with farmers to get local produce into schools. It helps the local community, it is good for the environment, and nothing is fresher than farm to table. This book is great for a group who knows we have a crisis but does not know where to start. Lunch Wars can be their blueprint.

Please join me over at BlogHer to discuss Lunch Wars.

This was a paid review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are my own.

Do you think we need a school food revolution?

What are your memories of school lunch?