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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Childhood Obesity Awareness Month emphasizes healthy eating, accomplishments of past year

On August 31, President Barack Obama stood at the White House and officially proclaimed September 2011 National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month.

“Since the 1970s, the rate of childhood obesity in our country has tripled,” Obama began, “and today a third of American children are overweight or obese.”

By now, you’ve probably heard those statistics about 4,000 times, including on this blog. It’s no secret that, as Obama said, a third of today’s children are headed down a road toward Type 2 diabetes and a higher risk of obesity-related health effects such as heart disease if major actions aren’t taken to address this crisis.

While the establishment of September as a month to center focus on the issue has been a positive step the past two years, we all know that this is a 12-month job. Since Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (Ohio), who is primarily responsible for creating the month, brought great publicity to childhood obesity last September, it hasn’t been ignored.

As Obama declared just a week ago, during the past year Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign has started initiatives across America and worked to secure partnerships with grocery stores and local farms to “increase access to healthy food in underserved areas.”

Additionally, last December the President visited Tubman Elementary School, where a DC SCORES student beamed alongside the world’s most famous man as he signed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act designed to provide healthier school lunches.

And, indeed, visit an elementary school cafeteria, and you’ll find more fresh and local vegetables and fruits, more whole grains, less fried food and less refined grains.

The federal government also, after several decades, changed the food pyramid to the simple “MyPlate,” which, if you can get by design, doesn’t even mention the word sugar and places a much bigger emphasis on vegetables.

So there is no doubt that on a federal level, changes are being enacted to try to set this nation on a much healthier path. Of course, true, noticeable change must happen on the local, grassroots level, and that’s where DC SCORES comes in.

Last May, we were delighted to highlight Congresswoman Fudge as one of our honorees at the second annual Inspired Art Gala. The work and effort she has put into this cause are inspiring, and she made an impact by traveling to Washington to speak in front of a group of our poet-athletes.

As we’ve mentioned several times, the childhood obesity crisis is even worse in the District than in most large cities. In many of the neighborhoods where we serve schools, 50 percent of children are overweight or obese. While healthier school meals help, they’re only part of the solution.

By providing students 270 minutes of physical activity each week through soccer — six times the amount of exercise provided during the school week — DC SCORES creates a balanced, healthy lifestyle.

While Obama’s speech was good, true and continued to focus attention on this issue, it’s important to remember that fighting childhood obesity isn’t just about providing healthy food for the nation’s children.

It’s also about offering chances for all youth to stay physically active through safe, organized activities.

To learn more about Childhood Obesity Awareness Month and take action, visit the official website.

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