Last week, the Center for Disease Control reported some good news — in more than a third of the states and territories of the U.S., childhood obesity has shown a bit of a drop. New York was one of those states.
Lots of good work has been done to bring the bad numbers down — healthier school lunches, great programs like Brooklyn Kitchen‘s “Classrooms in the Kitchen” that brings kids into their kitchen lab to learn about where food comes from and how to cook it, and even just the notion that in order to run for mayor, you’d better have some solid plans on the issue, as seen in the recent mayoral candidate forum on the Future of Food in July hosted by Marion Nestle at The New School.
Last week, I pulled into a gas station in my neighborhood to fill up and as I stood there pumping gas, I saw a big, bright burger-laden ad on one of the pump islands. Six bucks for a 20 ounce soda, cheeseburger (presumably from feedlot sourced meat), and a pile o’ fries. When given the choice to fill up on this or, say, two heads of Long Island or HRV or even Jersey lettuce for the same price, this is a pretty compelling way to fill your belly and spend your money.
It’s a very good thing that the numbers of unhealthy kids look they’re improving, but there’s a long way to go. Obesity in America clocks in at around $150 billion in medical expenses annually and is the source of type 2 diabetes, stroke, heart disease, and other maladies that can be usurped, in no small part through education (for kids and adults, too). Whether or not you agree that our representatives should police what we eat and the size of the container it comes in, they are responsible for forging positive, healthy policy and partnerships. It’s frustrating at best to see empty-calorie ads like the one I did last week and not feel strongly like this conversation is one that should not die down to a murmur after the stumping is done. The personal is political, right? What we feed our bodies is about as personal as it gets.