Earlier this week, I almost lost my marbles when I viewed the August lunch menu for my girls school. They attend a private school that serve hot lunches, but the menu choices were abysmal. Chicken Nuggets, Pizza, Hamburgers, Corn Dogs… the list goes on and on.

Here are some very sobering stats (via the CDC):

  • Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years.
  • The percentage of children aged 6–11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 20% in 2008. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12–19 years who were obese increased from 5% to 18% over the same period.
  • In 2008, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.1,2
  • Overweight is defined as having excess body weight for a particular height from fat, muscle, bone, water, or a combination of these factors.3 Obesity is defined as having excess body fat.4
  • Overweight and obesity are the result of “caloric imbalance”—too few calories expended for the amount of calories consumed—and are affected by various genetic, behavioral, and environmental factors.5,6

I am the exception to the rule when it comes to kids and nutrition. I am not “granola” (a term my friend PineappleLily introduced me to a few months ago), but I am certainly aware and cautious of what my children consume. Veggies are a must, and I try to limit the pastas, breads and fats I serve. My girls love veggies and my youngest was made fun of by her friends the first day of school for bringing cherry tomatoes from Whole Foods as part of her lunch. (KISS IT, KID. She likes them.)

This week, I have stopped a couple of times at the local 7-11 store to grab a drink before heading into work. I am awe-struck by the number of school children (in uniforms) who are grabbing items for breakfast or lunch. FROM 7-11, PEOPLE. Yea, I know they carry fresh fruit cups and hard boiled eggs now, but do you honestly think these kids are going to choose them? Hell no, they are going to pick Hostess powdered donuts or a HoneyBun. And don’t for get the Gatorade or Monster drink (I’m serious here. I saw a kid – no more than 10 years old, with one in his hand).

Here’s the dilemma. It’s cheaper (and in some cases easier) to purchase processed foods like breakfast toaster pastries or packaged donuts than it is to get a egg white breakfast sandwich. Its cheaper to sell prepackaged junk than it is to offer fresh healthy options. Just take a look at my girls lunch menu to prove my point. Our small, private school LOSES money each year because of the way we are required to serve meals. Yes, First Lady Michelle Obama introduced new dietary guidelines for the National School Lunch Program with the goal of improving meals, but in reality it has made it MUCH more difficult to create appetizing menus that meet the new dietary requirements. With the price of food increasing in recent months due to the severe drought the U.S. is experiencing, it will only continue to worsen.

All of these challenges make me even more proud of a kid I stumbled across a few months ago via Twitter. Mason Carter Harvey, age 13, started his 6th grade year at 206lbs. He was tired of being made fun of by classmates and decided to do something about his weight. He began eating healthier foods, cut out sodas and started exercising. And slowly but surely, the weight began to fall off. Two years later, Mason is roughly 120lbs and has made a name for himself. He’s been featured on numerous news stories across the U.S., and this past Easter was invited to the White House to meet First Lady Michelle Obama. (You can read more about Mason at Strivefor85.com )

Mason is an amazing kid, but the reality is, he is an exception to the rule. Most 12 year old kids don’t have the self-motivation to eat healthy and exercise. It’s up to us adults. But how? How can we make sure that the next generation (especially those in a low-income communities) have affordable access to good foods?




10 Responses to The sad reality of childhood obesity in the US

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  4. Rachel says:

    Stephanie, you make a completely valid point. The facts are scary, and we need to deal with them immediately. One thing that I am happy to see is the acceptance of food stamps at Farmer’s Markets in NYC.

  5. Sheri says:

    It’s not cheaper to eat like crap, it’s simply more convenient. My kids eat a semi healthy breakfast every day (non-candy cereal w/ plant milk, toast with natural PB & jam, whole wheat pancakes, whole grain muffins, fruit bowls, whole fruit smoothies). I make most of those items, because its cheaper and I can control the quality. I’m about to start packing lunches, too, just because they get fed mostly junk at their dad’s house and iffy stuff at school. It will cost me a little more money and a lot more time, but I have to keep my eyes on the prize: healthy kids with well-fed brains.

    All parents could do better for their kids. That’s the solution. Start at home. Good, healthy choices are out there, we just have to choose them.

    • Stephanie says:

      You make a good point Sheri. Convenience is a big part of it (which is probably why I have seen so many kids at 7-11; it was convenient for mom/dad). But, many convenience stores are now carrying “healthier” options like fresh fruit cups or hard boiled eggs, but they cost $2.99 vs a package of Hostess Powdered Donuts for $.99. If finances are an issue, the choice will the the cheaper item every time.

      • Sheri Guyse says:

        And I think a huge part of “convenience” is a total crock. You can’t tell me that stopping at 7-11, walking in for donuts, waiting in line, paying and going back to the car is more convenient than pouring a bowl of Cheerios. I’m not a huge cereal fan, but it’s as convenient as it gets.

        I think there are a lot, a LOT of lazy and uninformed parents. I feel very judgy saying this stuff, but I do think I’m nearing the truth of the situation. The trouble is, how do you motivate people to care about their own children in all aspects of the child’s life if they don’t have that awareness?

  6. gorillabuns says:

    I’m appalled as well. My kids take their lunch most of the time unless it is pizza day. I’ll let them splurge on those days. Both private and public. The same fattening lunch. Even the salad choices from the school is a caesar. Not healthy or low fat.

    All I can do is educate my girls when the go to the store about fresh, healthy choices for lunch, dinner and snacks. They help by making their lunch and help me with dinner. I’m trying to teach them chips aren’t a snack.

    • Stephanie says:

      Shana – we are fortunate enough we can educate them on making good choices. My concern isn’t just for my kids- but for all those children I see at 7-11 in the mornings that are going to end up obese with diabetes and high cholesterol. It’s about more than just changing the menu at school – but educating everyone about sugars in sodas, fatty foods and more.

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