Fight childhood obesity

By Observer editorial November 16, 2012 01:08 pm

The problem is two-fold. First, children are more sedentary than they used to be in the good old days when we walked to school nine miles, in snow up to our armpits, uphill both ways. 

Second, processed foods with loads of salt, sugar and fat are more available these days. The result? More calories in. Fewer calories out. An epidemic of childhood obesity and diabetes.

Even here in Union County, with an outdoor paradise at their doorstep, kids are spending much of their spare time watching TV, playing video games and messing with smart phones and other electronic devices — in other words, being sedentary. Junk food is easily accessible.

Of course, kids of every generation have a natural sweet tooth. Teaching kids the habit of grabbing healthy snacks and not junk will be a challenge.

But local folks are up to the task. A new program will see that we make progress. The program is made possible by a four-year, $1.8 million grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The recipient? The Oregon Health and Science University School of Nursing at EOU on behalf of the Union County Fit Kids Coalition.

The grant will fund a research and education project named Students Now Advocating to Create (Healthy Snacking) Zones — SNACZ. The four-year project will prepare youth to work as community leaders and advocates to promote healthy snacking among their peers and in their schools and food stores.

Currently, there is peer pressure to eat junk. The SNACZ project wants to make it so there is peer pressure to eat healthy foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains, snacks that don’t drip with sugar, fat and salt, that don’t come out of a package.

Soon, SNACZ 4-H clubs will be formed in the Cove, Elgin, Imbler, North Powder and Union school districts. Fourth- and fifth-graders joining the program this year will comprise the core of the SNACZ 4-H clubs the next four years. The students will lead the way in supporting healthy snacking among peers and their parents. The SNACZ gang will also work for changes in school practices to support healthy snacking, and collaborate with local food store owners to promote healthy snacks in their stores.

The time is right to tackle childhood obesity head on. Here’s hoping the SNACZ project is a big success.