Do obese children wake up every morning choosing to be overweight and unhealthy? Of course not. And yet more and more we see the effects of food choices on their growing bodies. These kids don't have a chance and can't control the outcome of their lives.
This was the picture in 2008 so go up from there. That's a whole generation off to a poor start.
"People often make the mistake of saying obesity is all about choice, but it's not just an individual issue. These decisions about what to eat, drink, and how active we are is shaped by the conditions in which we live." That's a down to earth quote from Adam Becker, executive director of the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children, which is made up of local health organizations.
He goes on to tell of a school where 97% of the kindergarden-through eighth grade students are poor enough to qualify for free lunch. The problem here is that free lunches (no such thing) are usually made up of processed food and are heavy in starch and fat.
How can you say that a child chooses to become severely overweight when almost every choice offered is shown to create metabolic syndrome (which we usually don't see until adulthood)? That little kid has no choice if he or she wants the largest meal of the day to be the one at school. There may not be much of one at home.
If you take into consideration the time, money and convenience, you can see how starchy, fatty foods are so popular. The absence of grocery stores in poor neighborhoods and the large number of convenience stores is an indicator of the quality of food a child can eat.
You've got to hand it to Michelle Obama who has made childhood obesity her cause. In an uphill battle, she is encouraging children to eat healthy foods and get more active. Right now she is touring the country appealing to children to change their lifestyles.
Sadly, since children can't change their lifestyle alone, there has to be a change in the home environment. When adults work one or two jobs just to keep the family going and living in a poor and often dangerous neighborhood, it's easy to see that fast food is easier to get a hold of and you don't have to play outside.
I takes years to teach children that they don't have to stuff themselves with unhealthy food and generations of support within the community to make these changes. It's not enough to encourage change in the schools for a few hours a day when the rest of the day is spent in the family environment.
And the news in the Chicago school system isn't encouraging either. The state of Illinois where I live has been rated as the fourth highest percentage of obese children as of July 2011. We are in the same ranking as Texas and several other states in the South.
No, being fat is nothing to laugh at. We have a serious public health issue to address. As these children grow older, we will be footing the bill for chronic illness such as diabetes, high blood pressure and a host of other diseases that used to be seen only in adults. Your grandma may have diabetes, is going blind and ready for a heart attack....but a 6 year old?
Your investigative reporter~Jessica