A Vision of Health & Wellness for Kids

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Posted 11 May 2010 in Food Alert Trends

If you read this blog you know I am addicted to fine food and beverage. One thing you won’t discern from this blog is that I am also into wellness and health and, for years, have maintained an extremely healthy diet accompanied by moderate exercise. However, satedepicure.com is about fine food but not necessarily about nutrition, health, and wellness. This is my first major entry about these topics although I have significant experience working with kids to improve wellness and health while reducing obesity. I also choose not to use this blog to promote any sort of political view and remain generally neutral in such matters. So it may come as a surprise that I am willing to offer an endorsement of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign.

My support solidified today after reading Melody Barnes report to the President “Solving the Problem of Childhood Obesity within a Generation.” Barnes is Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy, Chair of the Task Force on Childhood Obesity, and Director of the Domestic Policy Council. The report was released today on the Let’s Move web site. A summary posted on the site lists the following broad goals:

  1. Getting children a healthy start on life, with good prenatal care for their parents; support for breastfeeding; limits on “screen time”; and quality child care settings with nutritious food and ample opportunity for young children to be physically active.
  2. Empowering parents and caregivers with simpler, more actionable messages about nutritional choices based on the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans; improved labels on food and menus that provide clear information to help make healthy choices for children; reduced marketing of unhealthy products to children; and improved health care services, including BMI measurement for all children.
  3. Providing healthy food in schools, through improvements in federally-supported school lunches and breakfasts; upgrading the nutritional quality of other foods sold in schools; and improving nutrition education and the overall school environment. 
  4. Improving access to healthy, affordable food, by eliminating “food deserts” in urban and rural America; lowering the relative prices of healthier foods; developing or reformulating food products to be healthier; and reducing the incidence of hunger, which has been linked to obesity. 
  5. Getting children more physically active, through quality physical education, recess, and other opportunities in and after school; addressing aspects of the “built environment” that make it difficult for children to walk or bike safely in their communities; and improving access to safe parks, playgrounds, and indoor and outdoor recreational facilities

We invest in many things in this country but there is no better investment than our children. The obesity epidemic is so extensive and has penetrated our youth to such an extent that it must be addressed. Failing to address the epidemic could pose serious harm to the food and beverage industry in the form of increased regulation and declining public trust. If we fail to act we will fail our children and lose control of our destiny.

If we act, we could turn this thing around. I can envision a day when a broad coalition composed of families, educators, food and beverage professionals and governmental agencies come together in pursuit of resolution. Ms. Obama appears to be making progress to this end.

Early in my career I completed a college level nutrition course which required an analysis of thirty days of dietary intake. It was an eye opener. Over the years I have learned to balance a declining metabolism with a reasonable amount of exercise gradual reduction in daily calories. In return I have been rewarded with reasonably good health. This basic knowledge inspired me, when the opportunity arose, to join a couple of nationally known research scientists to conduct a major study of the benefits of teaching elementary school children about food, nutrition and exercise in an effort to reduce adolescent obesity and diabetes. My role was to assemble a working team of chefs and nutritionists who could help build curricula and deliver programs to the children on location in their schools. We received funding for the project from the National Institutes of Health and spent five years working with several school districts conducting a weekly food, nutrition and cooking program with the kids. The results were significant. We can turn this epidemic around.

My comments above do not represent any sort of political endorsement but I do endorse helping our children. Kids need to be taught where food comes from, how to select the right foods, how to eat well, and the value of activity and exercise. Such knowledge is fundamental to long term health and wellness and kids should acquire these skills and knowledge early in their lives. Whether you support the current administration or not, I hope you support “Let’s Move.”

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