A fat juicy burger, a side of crispy fries, and a creamy ice cream cone to finish it off – this is a common fast food meal at Mcdonald’s. This whole meal comes to a whopping total of just under five dollars, making it easy to feed a whole family. It is easy to turn to fast food because of the tasty, convenient, and cheaply priced food. Ordering a salad off the menu is a lot more expensive which makes eating healthy difficult. An increasing number of children are suffering from obesity because of lack of physical activity, unhealthy eating, and genetics.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity now affects 1 in 5 children and adolescents in the United States. Obesity is a rapidly growing problem, especially in the United States. Dr. Amar Chadaga, who specializes in the study of obesity, says it has been proven that obesity dramatically beat the other leading causes of preventable death. (Brenza, 2012) Obesity is the leading cause of strokes, and many other health problems including high blood pressure, asthma, and heart disease. Although there are resources out there, greater measures need to be taken to solve the obesity epidemic. Childhood obesity is a major crisis in the United States, and the problem will increasingly get worse if we don’t do something about it now. Changes in school
Another possible solution to the obesity epidemic is increasing the cost of junk food and decreasing the cost of healthy food. According to a consumer report published in 2016, Americans eat an average of 4 to 5 commercially prepared meals per week (Larned, 2017). Fast food is a common meal because it is cheap, convenient, and delicious. Fast food restaurants like Taco Time, Wendy’s, and Panda Express are capitalizing on the American love of fast delicious food. The price of fast food makes it easy to be a consumer of fast foods. If you look at the typical fast-food menu, healthy foods are frequently priced at 3-4 times the price of the less healthy fare.
For the past four years, South America has operated a program called HealthyFood. Those who are a member of HealthyFood receive a 25% rebate on healthy foods in supermarkets nationwide. So far, over 300,000 middle-income South Americans are actively participating. Using data from grocery clerks, it was found that an estimated “25% rebate on healthy foods raises the share of the healthier foods that program participants buy by 9%, while cutting the share of less desirable foods by 6%.” (Sturm). The results from this program show that this is an effective way to promote healthy living. By raising the cost of calorie rich choices and lowering the cost of low calorie alternatives, healthy food would be considered more heavily. This solution is what larger industries can do but what can schools do?
The D.A.R.E (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program was the Nation’s most popular substance-abuse prevention program. The program was taught in elementary schools as a way of educating and scaring children about the harmful effects of drugs and alcohol. Videos of smokers whose life had been ruined by the destructive effects of drugs were presented to the class. This method could also be used to educate children about the dangers of unhealthy food and sedentary lifestyles. Preliminary work presented at the 2017 Society of General Internal Medicine Annual Meeting concluded that the top three causes of preventable death are obesity, diabetes and then tobacco.
The fatalities from tobacco use over the last year have decreased while the fatalities from obesity related illnesses have increased (Brenza, 2017). Since obesity is now the leading cause of preventable death instead of tobacco, it should be taught in schools. The program would have someone from the health department come into the classroom once a week. Presentations, videos, and different guest speakers would come and educate students on the negative consequences of obesity. Students would also be educated on proper nutrition and how to live a healthy lifestyle.
Schools already offer incentives for reaching academic goals, similar incentives could be used to reinforce activity-based behavior. For example, at the beginning of every week the student would receive an activity log. The back of the activity log would have possible activities including healthy eating, hydration and activity. Each activity would be a certain amount of points, being weighed by their level of difficulty. . The front of the activity log would have a place to add up daily totals accompanied by a parent signature. Each student would create realistic individual goals and be rewarded for meeting those each week. A nutritionist could sit down with each kid and their parents and create a healthy diet and exercise routine that fits the individual’s needs. Rewards would include getting early out of school, experiential experiences like hiking, walks and field trips. This reward system would work because it provides motivation and gives them goals that are attainable. Children are naturally driven by rewards and positive peer pressure. This system would support healthy living in students.
“If you get 100% on your spelling test you get a candy bar!” or “If you do well in your soccer game we can get ice cream.” are common examples of how food is used as a reward system for children. This seems like a normal system but in reality it’s doing more harm than good. Once a child is continuously rewarded with sugar for doing something hard it becomes engraved in their brains. According to Carolina Jantac who is a registered nutritionist “When you were a child you were taught to relate feeling happy and excited with eating sugar. Therefore, when you are feeling sad or yearning that state of mind of happy thoughts, you reach to sugar to deliver it” (Jantac, 2014).
The other issue that arises when you turn sugar into a reward system is that children will associate the feelings of being happy and accomplished with sugar. This is wired into their brains for life and their minds instantly turn to food when dealing with something hard. It is not unusual for humans to turn to food when dealing with stress or major life changes. It is still okay to indulge every once in a while in treats and candy, but the connection between sugar and rewards needs to be broken. Teaching children young that you should not turn to food to cope could greatly benefit their health in years to come.
In elementary school, it is common for a teacher to reward the kids with a treat after taking a hard test. Another way to handle this situation could be to reward children with extra recess or let them run a lap outside. Children should be taught that the best reward is a reward that involves rewarding your body not your sweet tooth. For example, after students complete a test the normal reward would be a lollipop or a piece of chocolate, instead; they could be rewarded with a 10 minute break outside. In Fayette County, a group of advocates consisting of students and teachers went to the school board to protest against giving students treats as rewards.
The group proposed that the school “not be able to use food or beverage as a punishment. And if more than one item is served at a school or classroom celebration, they proposed that at least half of them meet federal guidelines for healthy snacks” (Meehan, 2014). It is understandable that parents and teachers are concerned about the amount of treats and snacks being given to children at school. Josh Radner, who is a teacher and a parent, said that because food was used as a reward in classrooms, his son had developed a taste for, “a whole new range of foods I prefer he eat less of.” Schools should be promoting healthy living and not rewarding students with treats. If teachers do want a reward, extra long recess and other outdoor activities should be rewarded instead.
Schools are a large part of children’s lives which is why it’s critical that healthy living is well promoted. According to the National Farm to School Network more than 30 million children eat school lunch everyday and over 77% of these children come from impoverished homes. This statistic shows that what children eat at school has such a big impact on their lives. It is critical to create lifelong nutritional habits in school. Nutritionist Isobel R. Contento reports on the success of programs connecting schools to local farms. The farms supply the school with fresh produce making their meals healthier and fresher.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend making fresh fruit and vegetable stands in place of vending machines. Easy and convenient access to fresh fruits and vegetables would greatly increase the chances of people choosing the healthier route. Not only would this idea be supporting local farms, it would also be helping schools become more healthy. For example, for breakfast the cafeteria could serve fresh scrambled eggs with sausage, a banana and fresh apple juice. Lunch would consist of a dark green garden salad with a homemade dressing. These meals are dramatically healthier than the meals being served in the cafeteria today. Children need to be taught the importance of real food that is not artificially manufactured in a factory. Schools play a large role when it comes to the health and well-being of their students, which is why schools should buy their food from local farms.
The obesity epidemic is a major crisis in the U.S today, resulting in nearly 600,000 fatalities per year. Many families turn to fast food because of the tasty, convenient and cheaply priced food. Ordering a salad off the menu is a lot more expensive which makes eating healthy difficult.An increasing number of children are suffering from obesity because of lack of physical activity, unhealthy eating and genetics. The fatalities from obesity have increased while the
fatalities from tobacco have decreased, making obesity the number one cause of preventable death. Childhood obesity is a major crisis in the United States, the problem will increasingly get worse if we don’t do something about it now. Educating children in a similar way as the D.A.R.E program, making healthy food less expensive than junk food, are possible ways of preventing this nationwide epidemic.
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