A Modern Day Food Fight!

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This month, I was lucky enough to have my childhood obesity article featured on the front page of the magazine, The Voice!  (right next to the Editorial)  What a way to start the month!  Since the photo print is so small, I’ve included a copy of my article below–for your reading pleasure.  If you would like to check out more of my articles go to my website, pacificnorthwesthealth.com and click on the “Published Articles” link!

A Modern Day Food Fight

by Autumn Pappas, Contributing Writer

Childhood obesity rates first rose in the 1980’s when a major shift occurred in our food supply.  Farmers grew bigger crops which resulted in an over-abundance of food in our nation. Fast food chains, high fructose corn syrup and eating out became hugely popular, as well as larger portions. Food companies advertised to children more than ever before, which increased the amount of food that families purchased. Electronic media became mainstream, and children became more sedentary. Consequently, over thirty years later, one in three children is now considered overweight.

Today, we live in an environment which encourages people to eat large portions of unhealthy foods. The underlying problem is that the goal of the food industry—to make a profit— does not align with the public health goal, which is to promote health and wellness. The food and beverage industry spends an astonishing sixteen billion dollars a year on advertising. Advertisers use health claims to make consumers believe that packaged foods are healthier and lower in calories than they truly are. Additionally, fruits and vegetables are 40% more costly today than in the 1980’s—making it difficult for families on a budget to buy healthy produce. This has added to the reason Americans are consuming an average of 700 calories more than they used to.

President Obama announced recently that childhood obesity rates have slowly started to decline in part to the “Let’s Move!” initiative started in 2010 by Michelle Obama. “Let’s Move!” is dedicated to solving the challenge of childhood obesity within a generation. As part of this effort, Mr. Obama established the first ever task force on childhood obesity; their goal is to reduce the childhood obesity rate to just 5% by 2030. Additionally, Congress passed the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act to improve childhood nutrition by empowering the USDA to set nutrition standards for all school foods.

We all have a personal and social responsibility to the health of our future generations. Our community leaders need to encourage families and communities to make healthy decisions.  Health-care providers need to educate and support their patients in living healthier. At home, we need to teach our children and grandchildren to cook with real food and exercise more. We all need to support and volunteer at local farms, farmers markets, schools and organizations that support healthy lifestyles for children. For more information on how you can help future generations live healthy lives, go to letsmove.gov.