Proposal to Combat Childhood Obesity in Schools
Childhood obesity is a very serious problem in the United States, and it is only getting worse. In the last thirty years childhood obesity has almost tripled, meaning that roughly 12.5 million children are currently classified as obese. How does this happen? As a country, how did we get so obese? How is it possible that 12.5 million of our children are extremely overweight? Increased availability of high-calorie drinks, increased availability of fast food, and poor school diets are among the chief causes. In school cafeterias vending machines with soda, chips and cookies can be seen readily available to any student with a dollar. The lunch menu at schools is not much better than the vending machines. A local catholic school’s lunch menu includes steak fingers, pork steaks, tacos, cheeseburgers, and chicken nuggets. Not only are all of these dishes heavily based on meat, there are no vegetables or fruits mixed in to balance the diet. School lunches like this are a main contributor to childhood obesity. I grew up in the Saint Louis Public School district where lunches consisted of cheeseburgers, fries and a Slurpee. With lunches this unhealthy it is no wonder our children are overweight. With this grant I propose to implement a program that educates both students and faculty and provides healthy lunches for America’s children.
Now 12.5 million is just a number, so let’s try to put it into perspective. There are more children currently obese in the US than the combined populations of the two largest cities in the country: New York (8,213,839) and Los Angeles (3,794,640). Childhood obesity is something that we should be worried about as it is a very serious health risk for a variety of reasons. It leads to increased risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, breathing disorders such as asthma, and other social or psychological disorders such as poor self-esteem and societal alienation. Childhood obesity also greatly increases the risk for adult obesity which further leads to heart disease, diabetes, cancer and psycho-social disorders. So if this is such a big issue, why has it not been addressed already? The answer lies in the trend, figure 1 shows that over the last four decades childhood obesity has increased by more than three fold. In 1970 roughly five percent of children in the US were obese, while in 2010 over fifteen percent of children were classified as obese.  Being classified as obese refers to the child weighing ten to twenty percent over his/her recommend weight. This incredible increase in the weight of our children is what sparked the movement to teach our children how to eat healthier. The negative effects of childhood obesity are not limited to physical health risks, there are many psychological effects brought on by a poor diet and obesity. In 2002 a study was done by C. Bernard Gesch and published in the British Journal of Psychiatry. Through this study, Gesch aimed to determine the effect of poor diet on the behavior of young adult prisoners. He conducted a double-blind study in which he gave the control group placebos and the experimental group vitamin supplements to make up for their deficiencies. The results of the study showed that those on actual vitamin supplements committed 26.3% fewer offenses when compared to the control group. This is one of the few studies that look at the relationship between a bad diet and mental health, and it shows that vitamin deficiencies increase the likelihood of anti-social and criminal behavior.
While I have been discussing problem of childhood obesity I have not mentioned whether or not there are any valid studies to prove school lunches affect the weight of our children. This is a valid counter-argument as children do spend a lot of time at home and we do not know when they eat outside of