Pop Tarts. Potato chips. McDonald’s. Those irresistible candy fundraisers and Girl Scout cookies you just can’t resist. As a teenager in America, it’s pretty difficult not to run into one of these tasty, but unhealthy foods every day, whether at school or at home.
According to first lady Michelle Obama, childhood obesity rates in the U.S. have tripled over the past three decades. For the first time in history, American children may face a shorter lifespan than their parents because obesity can lead to many preventable diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer and asthma. Something needs to be done.
Mrs. Obama is pushing for a solution with her new "Let's Move" campaign, an anti-obesity program that will “give parents the support they need, provide healthier foods in schools, help our kids to be more psychically active, and make healthy, affordable food available in every part of our country.”
Many families have difficulty purchasing the best foods for their children, whether for economic reasons, they are busy or they simply just don't know what their options are. The solution to this problem is to educate.
Via the campaign, The Food and Drug Administration will research new consumer friendly front-of package labeling, the American Academy of Pediatrics will educate doctors and nurses about obesity and the U.S. Department of Agriculture plans to “revamp the famous food pyramid symbol and online interactive tools.”
I spoke with Marjorie Chutkan, a local outpatient dietitian at Lee Memorial Health System, who revealed that childhood obesity is a bigger problem in developed countries such as the U.S. They have more money and are more likely to spend that money on food of lesser quality. Ms. Chutkan also said that obesity can be a genetic disorder but it is more likely that kids are not eating a well-balanced diet and exercising enough.
Children of all ages spend six hours a day or more at school where they consume at least half of their daily calories. "Let's Move" is planning to renew the Healthier U.S. Schools Challenge program and reauthorize the Child Nutrition Act which will maintain the quality of foods in the school system and also get all of the nations’ schools on the same level.
For some students, the only meals they eat are at school. Recently, I visited an elementary school in my neighborhood that is a part of the Backpack Program hosted by the Community Cooperative Ministries (CCMI), a local organization which sends students home with backpacks filled with food such as rice, oatmeal packets, fruit snacks and ramen noodles to last them the throughout weekend. These students’ parents cannot provide for them in this tough economy and CCMI has stepped in to help.
Eating right is only half the battle. Children have to become more physically active, in and out of school. The Presidents’ Physical Fitness Challenge and the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award can help promote healthy lifestyles and physical activity for students.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, children should participate in 60 minutes or more of physical activity each day. I know I don’t exercise for an hour each day because I’m busy with homework or there doesn’t seem to be enough time. “Let's Move” is going to unveil their strategies and tool kits to help increase physical activity for kids in America this coming spring. I see this program as a positive and uplifting force for the American community.
For Americans, having an unhealthy population means more money spent on treating unhealthy people which can easily snowball into more debt for the nation. If we can find a way to maintain healthy citizens we will be able to sustain a more productive society that can make valuable contributions to the country.
I was excited when I first heard about this campaign on the news. I no longer want the people of my nation to be referred to as “fat Americans.” America may currently be going through a rough patch regarding the economy -- forcing families to resort to McDonald’s and other unhealthy “quick fixes” for dinner -- but I believe that Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign is a necessary step in the right direction.