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?