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Industry Takes On Childhood Obesity, But Will It Help?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Childhood obesity has become a hot topic in the news these days. Rising obesity rates and questions about the health and well-being of our children have forced parents, teachers, the government and others to start taking action to combat this problem. New changes are coming, including the world's second-largest soft drink producer who is making it more difficult for school-age children to access their products worldwide.

PepsiCo will remove full-calorie, sweetened drinks from schools in more than 200 countries by 2012. Both PepsiCo and Coca-Cola Co. stopped selling sugary drinks in U.S. schools in 2006. Now PepsiCo has decided to make this change worldwide. They say the change is aimed at cutting down on childhood obesity, and that it also makes sense because sales in schools worldwide do not make up a huge portion of their overall sales. According to the article, "In primary schools, PepsiCo will sell only water, fat-free or low-fat milk, and juice with no added sugar. In secondary schools, it will sell those drinks along with low-calorie soft drinks, such as Diet Pepsi. Sports drinks are permissible when they're sold to students participating in sports or other physical activities."

Although this is a small change in the grand scheme of the childhood obesity issue, it's a step in the right direction. If kids are given healthier choices at school, then that puts even more pressure on parents to continue the trend at home. Hopefully more companies will also feel this pressure and follow suit. Companies aren't likely to make changes to their products and policies just because it's the right thing to do. They do it because others around them are doing it and it's good for their image.

One of Michelle Obama's top priorities is a campaign to increase activities levels and improve the diets of children. At a recent meeting of the Grocery Manufacturer's Association, Obama asked companies to "step it up", and put less fat, sugar and salt in foods- particularly those that are marketed to children. New government legislation is also on the horizon, including a child nutrition bill that could eliminate junk food in schools. It's in these companies best interests to start finding ways to improve the health of their products because otherwise they could be fighting an uphill (and unpopular) battle. A representative for the grocery association said the industry is open to working with the government on finding ways to produce healthier foods. This is another example of how the pressure and attention seem to be working.

What do you think about the changes that are happening? Do you think these things will make a difference when it comes to the health of our children, or are they just a drop in the bucket? If they won't make much of a difference, what is it going to take to see a real change?

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It starts in the pricing of food.
It starts in the home.
If they are taught from the home, then they will more than likely not eat.
Our children it what we place in front of them.
However, Mrs. Obama is trying to make the change within companies.
All these companies need to mark the unhealthy products more expensive and the healthy foods cheaper.
More people will buy the healthier foods.
We tell our kids if it is not on sale we don't buy it. Report
I hope it will be just the start of options in schools. As many mentioned teaching children about their health and understanding healthy eating habits ( the mention of the food journal I thought was great) in school and home has got to start being a higher priority, having the options in school for those children whose parents have no intention of changing their own bad habits or having healthy options for their kids it might be the ONLY healthy meal they get ALL DAY. I don't think obesity is the problem to me it's just one symptom of the larger issue, neglect in nutrition and overall health. Today’s children are the first generation in 100 years to have a lower projected life expectancy than their parents! The salt alone that many consume ON A DAILY BASIS put them at huge risks for several major health issues then adding the useless sugar on top of it it's no wonder they are not expected to live as long which is more then sad I find it extremely neglectful as a society that we are not more angry about this. Report
While in general I think this is a good idea - I still think the majority of this issue should be laid at the parents and educators feet. Children (and teens!) should still be able to have a treat once in a while.

I will never forget my brother being told in high school, that he was not allowed to purchase a foot-long sub because OTHER kids were overweight. This is a kid with a super fast metabolism who (aside from when he was on chemo and steroids, and his steroids perscription was screwed up) has never even been close to overweight in his life - and you want to tell him he can no longer eat the amount of food he needs for lunch?

If people actually knew how to eat properly, we would still be allowed to make our own decisions. Report
While I think removing the sugary drinks is a good start, I'm still not happy that they are including diet sodas in high schools. Diet does not mean better, and I have read many articles about links between the artificial sugars and chemicals found in diet sodas causing more weight/health problems than the calories in soda. Just cut out the syrup drinks all together and call it a day.
Honestly, if parents want healthier lunch choices then they are going to have to be willing to help pay for it or send their kids with a lunch. With massive layoffs of teachers and staff in schools nationwide, bettering the lunch program is not a top priority I'd imagine. Report
We have to change for ourselves and for our children it is a matter of responsibility Report
Yes that helps...also educating parents on making better choices when grocery shopping and making meals as well as ensuring that kids are getting the appropriate amount of exercise. Moderation in everything is key, IMO. Report
I think it's a start. The more discussion there is about the problem, the more general awareness there will be. Unfortunately, there are too many people who still think it's OK, if not downright normal, to allow a child to eat whatever s/he wants whenever s/he wants, in whatever quantities s/he decides. Cookies, potato chips, soda, too much fruit juice, etc., are considered normal parts of a child's every day diet. It's up to caregivers and parents to provide the example that everything in moderation is best, and a good example starts with not being an overweight parent. Report
I'm a believer that what you focus on grows, so this attention and subsequent discussions will hopefully get more growers, food companies and families thinking in a new direction about health. Report
It is definitely a parent's responsibility to teach good nutrition and eating habits. Society does not help that right now though. I only give my son whole wheat bread and nutritious foods but the packaging on kids foods is attractive but it isn't all that healthy. He sees what other parents provide for their kids at daycare including high sugar yogurts, sugary fruit snacks etc. Then he goes to the grocery store with me and at 2 1/2 is saying I want that. Sorry, we don't eat that is all I can say. I think companies need to start conforming to a higher standard, including fast food chains. Kudos to the apple slices in most fast food chains. Surprisingly we had taco bell the other week as a treat and they didn't offer milk for about crazy. I wasn't giving my 2 1/2 year old soda. I pack my child's lunch for him everyday but I can understand how it may be difficult for some parents to do that. I do feel that the schools need to step it up in this department too. They offer school lunches and if they are going to do that they need to be nutritious and balanced, not just thrown together for ease and to say that there is something on the plate. I graduated high school 14 years ago and at that time ice cream was offered at lunch. That is all that some kids ate...3 jack and jill ice cream bars, now that was nutritious. Let's make some changes in america, change our lifestyles, make it "abnormal" to eat at McD's and not the "cool" thing to do. Back to basics people!!! Report
Another part of the problem comes from the many ways schools and their booster groups do fundraising. Local schools sell candy to children as ways of making money. They have children peddle overpriced items from fancy brochures in order to make a ton of money and that stuff always includes sweets and fatty food items. Special events in schools generally include food--anything from donuts for attendance to all out sugar parties that nobody can turn down because someone will be offended. Holdiays like Halloween and Valentine's Day have entire classrooms of children bringing sweets and soda for the class and just distributing and eating is called a "party." We have a culture that needs changing and I don't know who needs to be the bad guy and make this stop--but someone does. Report
Last night, I watched the "sneak peak" of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, which addressed many of these issues. I think he has some great ideas. I think the premier of the show is on Friday. Report
I think it is great that these small changes are being made but agree with many others that this is ultimately the responsibility of the parents to teach their children to make healthy choices and to send them to school with good wholesome foods. Report
I go eat lunch with my kindergartener every so often and I am actually shocked at what parents pack in their child's lunch box. Sunny D, chocolate spread sandwiches, sugar cookies with icing, chips or a lunchable. It's no better then what the schools serve and maybe worse. My son loves taking his lunch but it always consists of a wheat sandwich (usually low sugar jam), fruit, a Babybel and wholegrain goldfish and Crystal Light lemonade. Parents need to become accountable and teach their kids healthy habits. Report
I worked in schools for 17 years. The average school lunch consists of some meat patty, nachos or fries, and a fruit (such as an apple or orange). The kids usually throw away the fruit, as it looks old and bruised. What do we expect from our children, when in the 80's Reagan had ketchup declared a vegetable for the federal lunch program? Report
I started my children eating healthy from the time they were babies. I breastfed them and when they started on table food, I only gave them 100% whole wheat bread, veggies, fruits, etc. I never buy potato chips or other crap. I allow them a treat after dinner and sometimes that is a sweet treat. Amazingly, my children all will eat salad, fresh fruit, and a variety of veggies. My kids take their lunches to school because what they serve at the schools is garbage. I have had several of their teachers comment to me how impressed they are at the healthy choices my kids have - a whole wheat lunch meat or peanut butter and jam sandwich, fresh apple, carrot sticks, and some pretzels or whole grain crakers. My kids were not even introduced to white bread until they entered the public schools system and saw other kids eating it. Moms ask me all the time how I get my kids to eat whole wheat bread - I tell them, "it is all they have ever had from the time they could chew". I simply never gave them white bread. They never knew any different. Now, they don't like it. Sometimes they get it when they go to a friends' house, but they always tell me it isn't as good. Raise them with the right food choices and they will make healthy choices when they are older. Report
Advertising sugary crap to children should be banned. My kids want to drink Sunny d because of advertising. I think kids should play more. Kids have too much screen time. I think when kids were safe to go outside and play outside society was healthier. Report
I think its the responsibility of the parent to raise the child...stop putting the blame with the school food servce program! They are not the parent! Report
Government has no right to raise our children. Isn't that the responsibility of the parents? Sheesh, people! THINK!!!!! Report
Personally, I think kids need more nutrition in their lives. Fast food, vending machines that offer unhealthy snacks, and high fat/calorie foods do not help anyone especialy children. Why start them on a life of bad food choices? Nice article. Report
It would be awesome to have KidSparks and have games based on fitness and nutrition. There more childtren are exposed at a young age the better habits they will develop into adulthood!! Report
Nice that Pepsi did that but curious what else was the motivation. I don't think anyone would have made that decision had it hurt them in the pocket more-it's a business. Most importantly its up to parents to teach good principles and guidelines for their kids and let them learn to govern themselves. We all have choices no matter what the government does, it comes from within. Report
Baby steps... I agree on getting kids more exercise, away from games and computers. I think it is so sad kids aren't outside like we were growing up. We were out in our neighborhood all day. Now due fear, computers, games, television, kids are locked inside. We need to get them out in fresh air and teach them to make good choices. We can not leave it to companies alone. Report
healthy choices and nutrition is a good start. What si wrong with just serving Ice cold water and milk for school lunch. I am for that. How about Less time at computers, cell phones and tv. Our children DONOT know how to play..Its so very sad...We need to get back to basics Report
We need to do more than eliminate sodas, however, it is a good start when a huge company like that takes the inititiave to fo what they can Report
It's a good start. Maybe the fastfood chains (especially McDonald's) could board this train. I also think that parents have to model healthy habits as well. We can ask the world to help us lead our children down the right paths. But remember it is just that - help. This means that charity must start at home. Report
I am very sad to learn that rec/gym is no longer offered in schools. Our country is in grave danger of losing our prominence in this world the way we keep cheating our children in the public education system. Report
I wish parents would return to parenting and the government return to governing the county and not the lives of family. I am glad to see Pepsi-Co doing something about it, but it was interesting to read that they made the point that it was not much of a financial sacrifice for them to remove the sodas from schools. I wonder if they would have made this decision if it had cost them more. Report
Agree with Goalie44. It's govt who has run these schools for to many years. parents need to be involved on local levels to make these changes and have the schools they want. Plus, isn't life about choice. Why do we allow govt to make these choices for us. It's hard to be fat, it's hard to be fit, it's hard to mantain. You decide which one you want, at least for now. Life is about balance. Report
Both my kids were on the thin side up until 10th grade in high school. Why? I think it is because gym was no longer required after that. My daughter was 130# at the end of 10th and now at age 25 she is a size 20 (I have no idea what she weights).When she moved to OK 2 yrs ago she was a size 13. The only thing I can figure is no exercise and the bad food she eats. You can teach your children to eat well, make sure they eat good food while living at home. How come they can't make good choices once they leave? I taugh her to eat correctly. Report
Both of my kids are very thin, always have been. Part of this is genetics. Part of this is that I started out with natural food -- breastfeeding, and then kept right on with natural foods -- veggies, fruits, grass feed meat, potatoes that need to have the dirt washed off of them, not potatoes that come in a box! Another issue is that I choose to be responsible for my children's nutrition all day long. I send them to school with a home-packed lunch. I make sure they have breakfast before they go to school. I just heard on the radio that children who bring their lunch to school have much lower obesity problems than children who eat school lunches. I am not surprised. School lunches are not made by lunch ladies anymore -- they are contracted out to food-service corporations who offer the schools a guaranteed profit, to run their food service and then when they don't make a profit, because the food is of such poor quality that most children do not want to eat it, they come to the school board and demand payment for their losses! Beyond that out and out theft from "we the people," is the pathetic excuse for food that they offer the children. High fat, high sugar, all refined flours, very little fruit (they claim the kids "won't eat it" -- I wouldn't eat that half rotten stuff they call fruit either!) and nearly no veggies is the rule of they day. Somehow -- this matches up with the food pyramid because the base of the pyramid is Carbohydrates. Every week there is at least one day, sometimes two where the school breakfast at my daughter's Elementary is 1/2 a maple bar. I can't believe the teachers don't rise up in protest -- how are these kids supposed to learn all morning on nothing but fat, refined flour and sugar?

School vending machines should have positive choices, because for some kids that is what they are depending on for their meal options. The fact that some people are not good parents is sad, but true, so we as a society need to have some compassion towards those kids rather than punishing them for having less than adequate parents. But it is a drop in the bucket of childhood nutrition. I am hoping that our wonderful First Lady's commitment to childhood nutritrion will be able to dislodge the food service corporation's greedy hold on our public dollars, so that we the people can once again provide for our children the kind of nutritious, lunches that I was priviledged to receive in the 1970's from the lunch lady that made me eat one spoon of spinach, even though I said no. Report
The question of "is it worth it?" reminds me of the story of the starfish - the one where the little kid is walking along the beach and throwing starfish back into the ocean. Someone says "you can't help all of them," and he says something like "well, I helped that one." I think one fewer place where soda is available can't hurt... Report
We've known for decades that manufacturers have been producing and promoting foods that have too much fat, sugar, and salt across the board. No wonder we need so many weight reduction programs! We need to read the labels and vote with our pocketbooks, - and restructure availability of junk food. I'd vote for taxing it, just like we do cigarettes. Healthy food should be cheaper than the junk! Report
What happened to the research and the news a year or two ago that said "diet" products actually tricked the body and caused people to eat/drink more than necessary. A clean water cooler is the best option. The kids see adults go to the water cooler - how about one for them.
No artificially sweetened sodas or "waters" - they don't help our children - and while we are at it - how about correct portions in packaging. That would go a long way towards helping in the War on Obesity. Report
Good article, but as a teacher in public schools for 32 years, I can tell you that there's much more to childhood obesity than a can of soda pop at lunch. Good nutritional practices need to start at home when children are born. So do family activities. Schools cannot be all things to all children. Education is like a three-legged stool, and we are only one leg. The parents are one leg and the students are one leg, thus comprising two-thirds of the equation. Report
Currently substituting in a couple of school districts, and it is sad to see students in K-3 buildings that are so out of shape, I had a 2nd grader yesterday out of breath coming up 2 flights of stairs. You can pass what ever you want, this happened at home before she ever came to school and the machines are not in the grade school. Parents have to take responsibility for the child, not think the school or society can fix it, it started when they were born. The next problem I see is that Physical Education in Grade School is disappear, because of money and mandates for special needs students over all other students. Schools are getting rid of gym, art, music classes because of state and federal mandates requiring therapists, physiologists, and special education staff. Drive through any neighborhood where you know children live, and you see no one out playing, they are all inside in front of the TV playing video games. When I was a child everyone was outside, and we played baseball in someones back yard, or rode our bikes up and down the sidewalks, walked to the local stores, climbed trees, mowed yards. You don't see that any more, the parents mow the yard because they don't or can not get the kids to come out and help. We use to rake leaves in the fall now people bag them up to the curb with blowers, and again that is the parent without the child, my dad always had us help, plus we got to play in them before he burned them on the garden to put back nutrients in the soil, not you can mulch them and put them back in or compost, but again most people don't do that either. We also had to help clean the house, cook dinner with mom, and we each had chores to do to clean up after dinner. When I asked students what they do, they say that's mom or dad's job, I go play my video games. Some schools have even went so far as to ban homework because parents complained they did not want them having homework, and then they wonder why things are getting worse, no homework, no chores, just sit and play video games. Most do not even have a bike to ride, and if they do it seldom is used. Less and less kids are going out for sports in Middle School because they are so far out of shape by then that taking out a Pepsi Machine really is just a drop in the real problem. Co-ed gym classes were girls are afraid to do anything because the boys are to rough, and nothing towards lifestyle changes, even Health classes are disappeared to just one class freshman year, we had class 7th, 8th and 9th, and it was year long every other day with gym. Now gym is one 9 weeks, and health one semester. Report
That's part of the problem starting to be addressed. Now what about giving our kids back their recesses and PE classes? Report
I think it is a good start. However, in our area they already banned sweetened drinks from the schools. The kids used their breaks and lunches to go off campus to purchase the it really only kept younger kids from the drinks. Report
It's a good first step! As SparkPeople recommends, make changes slowly and they become habits. Report
Although both my son's father and I struggle with weight issues, my son does not. From the beginning I adopted a philosophy from a book called "Overcoming Overeating". The philosophy is "Eat whatever you want and when you are no longer hungry, stop". We are born we know when to stop eating. As we grow up that ability gets distorted by family, friends, pop culture, etc. Because I started this when he was born, it worked.

Adding healthy foods and exercise are bonuses but instilling this idea is pivotal in maintaining a healthy weight over a lifetime. Report
Yes, I think this will help. We all need to band together to get and keep our kids healthy, if for no other reason than the fact that they will be in charge in a couple of decades. I want clear thinkers running this country! Small changes can make a big difference. :) Report
Am glad to see some changes being made but it still begins and ends with parents they are the primary ones who feed their children and have control over what is in their homes. Report
I like that they are trying to cut back on the junk, but I would also like to see them get rid of the diet sodas and the energy drinks. Report
Just as we reward ourselves for taking those baby steps, we should reward the food industry as they take their baby steps in the right direction. We all have to start some where! Report
Where are the parents? Shouldn't they be teaching their children at a young age and reinforcing it everyday to select healthy food for their bodies. Snacks to be eaten at special times, etc. This society always looks to blame someone, for someone/something else to change rather than looking in the mirror. Someday someone from the gov't will come to your house to tie your shoes. Report
Definitely a step in the right direction. I would also like to see chocolate milk eliminated as a beverage choice at the local elementary school. Yesterday my daughter told me that one boy bought and drank four cartons of chocolate milk at lunch. She thought it was funny that he didn't have room for his actual lunch.
Putting these choices out for kids who are as young as six years old is asking too much.
While I agree with the healthy aspects of the ideas, I strongly question the government interference in our lives. It scares me to think that someone else may be able to decide my personal decisions. Report
i love it! our first lady is doing awesome things for us. Report
I think it's WONDERFUL that our First Lady had taken on this VERY SERIOUS issue in today's world which is full of junk, instant gratification and convenience foods! I believe good habits (like anything else) starts in the home with parents teaching good eating and snacking habits which should be reinforced in school. It's so so sad that this generation may not live as long as the previous generations due to the fact that we are KILLING ourselves with food and not nurishing ourselves ... Report
I do worry about putting more artificial sweeteners into children's lives, as we do not know the long term effect on growing children of these substances. As adults, we sometimes choose these chemicals, knowing the disadvantages. Kids will believe they are all "safe" and use them without concern. It's like we are experimenting on our kids. Report
This all sounds like a good start to me! I don't think diet sodas are better for people than regular soda is; lower calorie, for sure, but not a healthy way to get hydrated. I drank diet cola for most of my life- I actually preferred the taste. I also got frequent and very painful headaches. After I got aspartame out of my diet, my headaches decreased in frequency, and now if I have a diet Pepsi, it tastes like garden fertilizer to me- pretty gross! NOT saying artificial sweeteners are evil- just saying diet drinks aren't a "healthy" option, maybe for some people more than others.

That's not to say older kids shouldn't have options. I'm glad they're planning to get all the crap out of primary schools, but as kids get older, it's up to parents to teach our kids how to make intelligent choices when other options are presented. Report
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