Children In Crisis Need to Make the Switch Too!

A few months back, HBO put out a series called, The Weight of the Nation, with a heavy focus on our school children. The documentary was alarming to say the least, but the findings were not all that surprising.

What I found most surprising was the amount of adult resistance to change, which of course undermined the economic forces in play, and all the interests vested  in serving our kids relatively nutrient-poor food. In the face of the such overwhelming evidence toward needing a nutrient-rich healthy eating style, many of the changes highlighted in the movie were small and far between.

Once children are used to the addictive nature of nutrient-poor, calorie-rich foods that are loaded with refined and added salt, oil and sugar, they will have a tough time making the Switch, on their own. This is sad because if given the opportunity to make the Switch, they have the ability to do it even faster than adults who have been trapped in a nutrient-poor eating style for far longer.

Here is a summary what they found in Part 3 of the series called ,Children in Crisis.


Francis Collins, MD, PhD
Director, NIH

“If you were told your child is at risk for cancer; that would get your attention. If you were told your child is at risk for some sort of brain disease; that would get your attention. Well, obesity ought to be on that list.”

A recent study has shown that about half of obese teenage girls become severely obese by age 30.

William Dietz, MD, PhD
Director, Div. of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity
Center for Disease Control and Prevention 

“Estimates are 1 in 3 children born in 2000 will develop diabetes sometime in their lifetime and this is a direct consequence of the obesity epidemic and it emphasizes unless we are able to control this epidemic that we’re going to have an abundance of chronic disease and disability…About 1 ½ billion dollars per year is spent by industries on the marketing of food products to children…Those foods are not the healthiest foods for children.”

Kelly Brownell, PhD
Director, Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity
Yale University

“There’s a very large research literature on the effects of food marketing directed at kids and I think it can be distilled into three words: it’s powerful; it’s pernicious; and it’s predatory. These are very strong words but I think they’re absolutely warranted by the deplorable environment that’s created the food marketing…The worst foods are the ones that get marketed most aggressively initially to children.”

Margo Wootan, DSc
Director, Nutrition Policy
Center for Science in the Public Interest

“Studies show that food marketing affects children’s food preferences, food choices, their diets, and their health. It shapes what they want to eat; what they’re willing to eat; and unfortunately today, it shapes what they want to eat into foods that will kill them, that will give them heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.”

In 2006, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommended limiting the marketing of unhealthy foods to children.

In 2006, McDonalds, Coca-Cola, Kraft, Hershey’s, Kellogg’s, and 12 other leading food companies formed the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI).  Under the CFBAI, these companies pledged to advertise only “better for you” foods to children.

Not quite sure what a Better for You food is come from Hershey’s

In 2010, Michelle Obama addressed the Grocery Manufacturers’ Association, which represents more than 300 food, beverage, and consumer product companies.
“Childhood obesity rates have tripled over the past three decades…Let’s be clear…It’s not enough to just limit ads for foods that aren’t healthy. It’s going to be so critical to increase marketing for foods that are healthy.”

Congress created the Inter-agency Working Group on Food Marketed to Children (IWG) in order to improve the nutritional profile of children’s diets. The experts in the IWG are from four government agencies. CDC; FDA; US Dept. of Agriculture; and the Federal Trade Commission

In 2011, the IWG proposed nutrition principles, which would lower the levels of sugar, salt, and fat in the majority of foods marketed to children.

October 12, 2011 Hearing on the IWG:

William Dietz, MD, PhD
Director, Div. of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity
Center for Disease Control and Prevention
“The more television a child watches the more likely they are to consume foods while watching television and those foods are more likely to be the foods advertised on television.”

Dan Jaffe
Executive Vice President, Government Relations
Association of National Advertisers
“The IWG is in effect attempting to re-engineer the American diet by declaring war on many healthy products. These guidelines need to be formerly withdrawn and returned to the drawing board.”

  • As of March 2012, no further progress has been made on the IWG food marketing report.
  • Only 10% of parents seek medical help for their obese children.
  • 99% of all public schools, in the United States, participate in the National School Lunch Program. 77$ offer the Breakfast Program. Food consumed at school represents 40 – 50% of children’s daily caloric intake.
  • 20% of students eat breakfast
  • 40% have a snack
  • 90% eat lunch at school

When the USDA last surveyed parents to find out what they thought about the quality of school food – 88.9% believed the food was very or somewhat healthy. The same USDA study found that 94% of schools served a lunch that failed to meet USDA standards for healthy school meals. The lunches served in those schools exceeded USDA’s recommendation for total fat and saturated fat.

Madison, Wisconsin:

Chandra Kalscheur-Stegner
Teacher, Hamilton Middle School
“We see more attention problems, behavior problems, and just exhaustion because they’re not well fed.”

Hank Schmelz
Principal, Hamilton Middle School
“I can’t eat the school lunch.  If I eat the food on a regular basis here I gain weight.”

Erik Kass
Assistant Superintendent, Madison Metropolitan School District
“Food service, in general, for K-12 education is lowly underfunded for what expectations need to be for what we’re feeding our kids. We’re painted into a corner of pouring more money into food service and competing with educational programs and the answer, unfortunately, is too easy at the end of the day. We’re not going to take resources out of the hands of kids learning to provide them a different food product.”

Dec. 2, 2010 Congress passed the Healthy Hunger – Free Kids Act:  The Act instructs the USDA to develop higher nutrition standards based on recommendations from the Institute of Medicine.

As written the act:

  • Doubles the amount of fruit served at breakfast.
  • Increases the quality of vegetables in lunches and requires servings of dark green and orange varieties.
  • Permits potatoes – including french fries – to be served as a vegetable, but limits them to two times per week.
  • Immediately requires that 50% of grain served to be whole grains, increasing to 100% after two years.
  • Reduces sodium in lunches by 53% over the course of 10 years.
  • Reduces saturated fat to less than 10% of all the calories served in a week.
  • Requires that any chocolate milk served must be fat-free.
  • November 2011: Congress released a new spending bill…that changes the President’s plans to make school lunches healthier.The new bill:
  • Keeps French fries on the menu.
  • Delays requirement to boost whole grains and calls the tomato paste and pizza a vegetable.

Jon Stewart
“Ahh, it’s not democracy.  It’s DiGiorno.”     

  • A recent analysis showed that 20% of the rise in the BMI of teens is associated with the increased availability of junk food in schools.
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages, juices, and juice drinks are the largest source of sugar in the diets of children and adolescents.
  • Scientists have found that the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is strongly associated with obesity.
  • 12 oz. of Coke has 10 tsp. of sugar
  • 12 oz. of apple juice has 10 tsp. of sugar
  • 12 oz. of grape juice has 10 tsp. of sugar
  • 12 oz. of orange juice has 8 tsp. of sugar

Philip Marineau
Former President
The Quaker Oats Co.
Pepsi-Cola North America
“48% of people’s sugar consumption comes from sugar-sweetened beverages.”

  • According to Nielson data, from 2008 – 2010, preschool children were exposed to 54% more ads for energy drinks.
  • Between 2004 and 2009, sales of energy drinks increased by 240%.

Marlene Schwartz, PhD
Deputy Director, Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity
Yale University

“If parents are going to help their children develop healthy eating habits and try to promote a healthy weight, they need to stop being undermined by the food industry, which is marketing the worst products directly to kids.”

A fifth of the teens drink three or more sugar-sweetened beverages every day — the equivalent of an extra meal.

Susan Combs
Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts
“Today, one out of 6 schools, in the United States, requires PE at 3 days a week.”
Today, there is not federal law requiring physical education in American schools. All PE requirements are set by state or local governments.

  • The current Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans call for children and adolescents to have one hour of moderate-to-vigorous exercise per day.
  • Currently, in the US, 4% of elementary schools, 8% of middle schools, and 2% of high schools, provide daily physical education.

Anthony Iton, MD, JD, MPH
Senior Vice President, Healthy Communities
The California Endowment
“The child hasn’t created the environment in which he or she is living…The obesity crisis is a moral challenge for us as a society.  But fundamentally, the root of it is the question of what kind of society are we and what kind of environment do we owe all of our children.”

Susan Combs
Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts
“Obesity will crush the United States and we will fade in the rear view mirror in oblivion. We could have done something different. We should have done something different and we lacked the moral fiber and love for our children to do the right thing.”

I would say that we have a ways to go on this issue, children are in crisis, and need to make the Switch to Nutrient-Rich Healthy Eating too!

Here’s what that would look like. Contrast that with the picture at the top.

Don’t You Think So, Too?



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