Get Kids Moving Again!
By Bob Gatty
Industry Takes Steps to Combat Childhood Obesity.
If you visit the Snack Food Association’s website, www.sfa.org, you’ll find in the upper right corner of the home page an image and link to “Kidnetic.com.” It’s a healthy eating and active living Web site for youngsters ages 9-12 and their families, and it’s designed to help fight a big problem in this country: childhood obesity.
SFA is sponsoring Kidnetic because of the critical link between physical activity and good health. Kidnetic.com is the first component of ACTIVATE, a healthy eating and active living initiative formed by the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation. It’s committed to promoting healthy family lifestyles to help prevent kids from becoming significantly overweight and to reduce their risk of suffering from obesity-related chronic diseases as adults.
The problem of childhood obesity has been gaining considerable attention in recent months from the federal government. In September, the U.S. Department of Agriculture unveiled the first “food pyramid” specifically aimed at children 6 to 11 years old. Boosting physical activity is a key message, with youngsters urged to get at least 60 minutes of physical activity daily – twice the minimum recommended for adults who are at a healthy weight.
Obesity Rate Triples
Meanwhile, an October report issued by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) outlines key strategies considered to be critical to reducing childhood obesity. The strategy upon which most agreement was reported was increased physical activity and exercise.
Many of the nation’s food companies, including snack producers, have developed programs to encourage kids being active.
In mid-November, The Washington Post ran a lengthy article outlining efforts of several such firms. The story focused on a program by PepsiCo Inc., in which the company is funding 13 playgrounds to encourage kids to get active.
“It’s all about moving more, helping kids move more,” said Brock Leach, PepsiCo’s chief innovation officer.
Meanwhile, Coca-Cola Co. is spending $4 million on a middle-school program, Live It!, which provides pedometers to kids through its “Step With It” component. “The Live It! Campaign takes a fun, student-level approach to 1) being physically active every day and 2) making healthy eating choices at school and home,” the company says.
General Mills Inc. is giving about $2 million a year to schools and community groups for nutrition and fitness programs. In partnership with the American Dietetic Association Foundation and the President’s Challenge, the General Mills Foundation awards 50 grants of $10,000 each to community-based groups that develop creative ways to help youth adopt a balanced diet and physically active lifestyle.
“There is a lot we can do to help children combat the problems caused by obesity,” said Lisa Katic, registered dietitian and consultant to SFA. “A healthy diet is certainly important. But so is physical exercise. We need to get kids moving again. The industry has a role to play in being a part of the solution to combat obesity.”