With obesity being a nightmare, the alleged “cures”, although good, are shortsighted. The mainstream focuses on a societal issue and not just a children’s issue.
One of the greatest influences on children’s behavior is the actions of the adults around them.
That is not to discount the millions spent on marketing products to children or the lure of technology-based entertainment’s effect on children’s activity, but the social environment that we adults create, and the lifestyle choices that we practice, greatly influence how our keiki’s (Hawaiian for children) will live their lives.
Lifestyle habits are established at a young age. The food with which we are most familiar and comfortable eating and the acceptance of physical activity and the integration thereof as a positive part of our lives are thrust upon us in our early years.
So, while it is important to focus on developing healthy lifestyle choices for kids, we cannot teach them these lessons unless we are teachers by example.
Education alone will not and cannot reduce obesity. And while public policies may be instituted to encourage adults as well as kids to adopt healthier choices in their lifestyles, that implementation may be quite difficult.
Why? Because we as a society have swayed so far toward the direction of unhealthy living.
There are recent estimates that suggest that in 20 years, more than 40 percent of U.S. adults will be obese if we do not make changes.
And during that time more than $500 billion will be spent treating the diseases that will result from poor eating habits and that $4 billion alone will be lost by businesses annually because of obesity-related lost days at work.
In Hawaii, organizations like the hypocritical American Heart Association have given lip service to trying to help. They get vocal about increasing PE classes in our elementary and middle schools but at their annual “Heart Ball”, where they charge $300 to $500 a plate to raise money for heart disease, they serve filet mignon, prime ribs or veal. There’s nothing like “looking” politically correct is there?
Advocating that quality, PE taught by qualified instructors that can “inspire” even non-athletic kids to adopt lifelong physical activities that will help keep them healthy well into their adult lives is one thing and leading efforts to reduce sugar-consumption is another.
Granted they show statistics that a person drinking one can of sugar-sweetened beverage daily consumes the equivalent of 10 5-pound bags of sugar each year, but why don’t they attack the problem at it’s source – the school lunch program?
In the school lunch program, foods under the guise of good nutrition – chili cheese dogs, pepperoni pizza, cheeseburgers and pork chops – are there to prop up farm incomes and are the crux of the problem.
Federal policy, which is heavily influenced by the meat and dairy lobbies, literally force the Secretary of Agriculture to favor beef, pork and other high fat foods over healthier ones when purchasing surplus commodities for federal feeding programs.
In 2001, the USDA (U.S. Dept of A**holes) spent $350 million on surplus beef and cheese, which was more than double the amount spent on fruits and vegetables.
Another mindblower is that federal policy prohibits schools from serving any non-dairy beverage as part of a subsidized lunch unless the kid brings in a doctor’s note saying that he or she has a medical reason not to drink cow’s milk.
This is so discriminatory considering that fact that upwards to 95% of Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans and Asians are lactose intolerant as well as many Caucasians as well.
Not that many years ago, the USDA dumped 420 million pounds of pork, beef and other unhealthy products on our kids and others in the feeding programs just to prop up sagging farm products.
In fact, the government’s two biggest expenditures for the national School Lunch Program were $179 million for cheese and another $170 million for beef. Come on, do you really think that our already out-of-shape kids need more cheeseburgers, pepperoni pizza, and nutrient-depleted milk?
The National School Lunch Program provides food for more than half of all the kids in the U.S. and one in ten has school breakfast. Eight million breakfasts and 27 million lunches provided every day. And the schools that choose to participate in the program get cash subsidies, donated commodities, and free bonus shipments from the USDA for each meal they serve.
For this generosity they must serve the lunches that meet the meet the federal requirements, including nutritional requirements spelled out in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which is dominated by input from the meat and dairy industries.
In 1997, the commodities program’s school lunch component spent $436 million – more than 70% of it’s money – on animal products which contain no fiber or complex carbohydrates and help clog the arteries of our kids and foster the obesity epidemic because of their high fat and cholesterol content.
And yet, the American Heart Association, which has been trying to raise money to combat heart disease for 30 plus years, can’t figure this out.
In Hawaii, years ago, a bill was submitted that said the schools shall offer vegetarian meals in their lunch programs. Two entities voted against it – the Board of Education and the Department of Health. When the word shall, was changed to should, they voted for it. No vegetarian meals ever appeared and the flesh, egg and dairy companies never lost a dime!
Nothing like selling the kids down the river to make a few bucks and all the while making believe they are concerned about the obesity problems we face, is there?