Childhood Obesity: Be Part of the Solution
By Lisa Katic
The snack food industry is well aware that one of the most prevalent public health issues facing our nation today is obesity, and it is particularly alarming in children. The industry also knows that the causes of obesity are complex and include eating behaviors and the amount of physical activity achieved each day, as well as genetic, social, cultural, and environmental factors.
As there are no simple solutions to this complex problem, and there is no one program that provides an overall solution, the industry believes that providing useful tools and relevant information to the right target audiences to help them adopt healthy behaviors is a critical step toward turning the tide on obesity and the industry has taken action.
In 1999, the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation, with the support of food companies and industry trade associations, recognized obesity as an emerging issue likely to have a major impact on the public’s health. As a result, the foundation initiated in-depth and ongoing consumer research to determine children’s and their parent’s attitudes and behaviors about preventing childhood obesity.
The IFIC research found that kids:
• relate weight to performance and appearance, not health
• want small victories to hold their interest and build their self-esteem
• want ideas for physical activity beyond organized sports
• want parental guidance and emotional support

The studies also revealed that parents:
• don’t see overweight as being a health issue
• believe that their child will outgrow the problem
• fear that bringing attention to the problem will cause eating disorders
• lack the information and skills to address the issue with their kids
The research also found that family dynamics play a crucial role in this issue. Children want ongoing involvement and inspiration from parents. Families need to work together in addressing the obesity issue. They also need effective tools to facilitate this cooperative effort.
Part of the Solution
After three years of extensive consumer research, the IFIC Foundation created ACTIVATE, a partnership between the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American College of Sports Medicine, the American Dietetic Association and the National Recreation and Park Association.
ACTIVATE is a comprehensive consumer education program designed to help children and their families achieve healthy lifestyles through regular physical activity and good nutrition. It is designed to deliver information and programs in home, school and community settings.
The first component of ACTIVATE is, an interactive Web site designed to help kids tap into their own energy through good nutrition and regular physical activity. Kids are encouraged to go online to learn and interact with the Web site, but also to get up and get moving while learning. also helps to open the lines of communication between parents and their kids. For example, it provides healthy recipe ideas that kids and parents can make together. Other games and activities found on include Busy Buddy, Betchacant, Inner G, Time Challenge, Kidnector and Recipe Roundup. These activities focus on tips for foods and activities that energize certain parts of the body, fun activities for one or two kids that gets them up and moving around while they are logged on to their computer, virtual e-mail messaging services that open lines of communication between kids and parents, and recipes for items such as Groovy Ape Smoothies and Devilish Eyeball Delicacies. has received more than 2.5 million visits to its homepage and has obtained more than 700 links and online mentions to date. About 85% of traffic comes from links and bookmarks. These are impressive statistics, and it is important for members of the Snack Food Association to be aware that they are supporting a program that is being utilized so extensively. Moreover, SFA members can promote to show their concern for children’s health and their desire to motivate youngsters to develop healthy habits.
Tap into the energy, and visit today. Your company can be part of the solution just by participating in and supporting this program that is already available through SFA.
Lisa Katic, a registered dietitian, is the SFA’s public policy advisor on nutrition and health.