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September 28, 2011


the future of our children

by Andrea O'Connell

The NAACP sends email that is always interesting.  The email I received today concerned the work they are planning to battle childhood obesity.  It’s an epidemic and a serious problem, especially among the African-American population, who are at risk at a much higher rate than white American children.  (There may be similar numbers and the same breakdown for the adult population, though I don’t have any numbers.)

At a recent board meeting of the YMCA, this issue was addressed, and we plan to focus with great gusto on ways to combat the problem.   Our three main focus areas are 1) Healthy Living, 2) Youth Development, and 3) Social Responsibility.   Each area will have a committee attached to it; the committee I chose to work on is Social Responsibility.

When I  read the NAACP message, it reminded me that far too many children face socio-economic barriers impacting what they eat.  In some of the lower-income communities, I recently learned, there are generally no grocery stores, and people resort to cheap fast food, or what ever they can find at the local 7-Eleven.

I think this is an important issue and thought it was important to share. The first line in the below email, about younger people not outliving their parents lifespan, is frightening.  We must strengthen and educate our young people.

Below is the important email from Shavon L. Arline-Bradley, Director, NAACP Health Programs:

For the first time in history, younger generations will not outlive their parents.

The cause? Childhood obesity. What’s more, the disease is plaguing African American populations at a rate that is disproportionately higher than the rest of the country.

Childhood obesity is a product of our environment, of our socio-economic statuses, and our geography. But, no matter the cause, we are the only ones with the power to fix it.

The NAACP is addressing this problem head on. Today, we released our brand new Childhood Obesity Advocacy Manual. Our local units are working to implement awareness, educate parents and children, and advocate for policy change – so that support can be found in the communities where it’s needed most.

You can be part of the solution by helping us better understand the problem and answering a few short questions about your community today:

It’s impossible to deny the role that our schools and state and local governments play in the epidemic of childhood obesity in our communities, but if we want to change policy it has to start at the ground level.

So, the NAACP is empowering you, Andrea, with the chance to make a real difference.

There are three major policy areas we’re focusing on: built environment, food environment, and school-based policies. Over the coming months, the NAACP will be assembling a task force of activists who we can work with fight for real change in these areas and start reducing the occurrence of childhood obesity in communities across America.

As always, we’d love to have you join us for the fight. Get started now:

I hope you will reach out a helping hand to the younger generation and American families of all colors to implement healthier lifestyles.

Thank you,

Shavon L. Arline-Bradley
NAACP Health Programs

The first link, above, has a manual and ideas on how to advocate for change.

It’s a worthy goal, and it’s all about children and their future, which is our future, too.

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Sep 29 2011

    I always shake my head in disbelief when I hear that the poor children eat more unhealthy food than the rest. Not because I don’t believe it but because its true and it doesn’t have to be that way. First of all, there needs to be more awareness of what is healthy and how to prepare that healthy food-teach about nutrition and label reading. Then, it would be nice to see healthy foods priced so that everyone can afford to buy them. I’d like to see the food companies do more to keep sugar/fructose to a minimum in kids’ foods,too.

    My husband has retired and I’m spending $250 or less on food a month. And I’m finding ways to cook healthier and buy healthier. It can be done and for the kids of any race and family income status it needs to be done. Children shouldn’t be having the health problems that they are. If they survive childhood they very well step into adulthood with health problems like high blood pressure and even having heart attacks in their twenties! 😯

    Great post, Andrea!

    • Sep 29 2011

      Hey Sherry, Thanks for your wonderful insight and I agree, it really doesn’t have to be that way…. though old habits die hard, there is hope to break the spell with education and providing solutions to the people who need the help the most. If there were weekly buses that took people from these impoverished areas and to a grocer where fruits and veggies and non-processed food was made available to them, it could help. The YMCA is intent on coming up with ways to battle this horrible reality…. And, $250 per month is excellent…. it reminds me that I haven’t got an inkling as to what I spend per month…. I need to calculate how much I spend on groceries, too. Staying on a budget is so helpful – well, I wouldn’t know.because I’m not that disciplined.. but I sure bet that budgeting is a wise and helpful thing to do….!

  2. colleen
    Sep 29 2011

    My boys, ages 11 and 16, are not overweight. I’ve been thinking why they aren’t, they certainly eat their share of junk food, chips, chocolate, soft drinks. I think the biggest reason is that we live in a small place where there are very few fast food places. Their school teaches the kids about healthy foods. Sometimes they’ll have a competion who can bring the healthiest lunch.

    They actually love fresh fruit and raw vegetables. Which i never pushed on them, but, i think because I didn’t forbid junk foods.
    Maybe I am just lucky?

    • Sep 30 2011

      Hi Colleen, I think that your boys are doing so well because you don’t make a big deal about the junk food, or give them a hard time about it. (It’s human to want what we can’t have or don’t have!) It’s good to allow some of the junk food we all love to taste now and then!

      The fact that you are not forbidding it, gives them less of a curiosity or a reason to sneak it Of course, the school sounds like its doing a great job to promote healthy eating, too. The boys are fortunate to have such good examples to model their behavior after – you and the school!

      When my brothers and I were little, my mom gave us healthy treats and never made a big deal about not drinking soda or eating a lot of sugary fast foods, and I never missed it as a kid…

  3. colleen
    Sep 29 2011

    Another thought , fast food restaurants and food companies need to clean up their foods, quit putting so much crap in their food products. As consumers, we assume that the food offered is decent. A friend went to one of the factories where Oreo cookies are made. He said he will never eat another Oreo cookie. He said it was gross the stuff that is put into them!

  4. Faith
    Oct 4 2011

    Dearest Andrea

    I guess this is my day to comment. I’m playing catch-up on some of your articles as I’ve been in a great deal of pain over the last few days and haven’t felt like readin much of anything.
    One of the problems with overweight children and adults today is laziness,it’s easier to stop by a drive-thru fast food place than to cook. There are tons of quick easy recipe sites on the net that use inexpensive foods such as beans and rice and ww pasta,which just happens to have a much better taste than white pasta. The KFC can’t touch chicken pan seared with garlic, olive oil & lemon juice over ww pasta,toss in some peas and you have a great healthy meal. I’m not saying that there isn’t a need to educate parents about the dangers of unhealthy eating.
    I don’t know if the Y has classes on healthy eating but if not it might be worth while to start some. Starting with you don’t have to be rich to eat healthy and cooking can be quick & easy and cheaper than fast food.
    I had a heart cath when I was 68,they found NO plaque in my arteries,none. I don’t eat fried foods,and I seldom eat fast food. Pizza maybe once every couple of months,and seldon eat beef,I stay away from anything white,except cauliflower. I could live on corn tortillas,salsa,black beans,white meat chicken and fat free sour cream,but then I’d miss ww pasta,turkey meatballs and tomato basil sauce.

    I thought you all might enjoy this. It was posted on The Hinky Meter and it’s a good one.

    Love n’ stuff


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