According to the Associated Press, the government is planning to spend over 1 billion dollars on nutrition education this year. Unfortunately, studies show that despite children’s programs touting fresh foods and lessons on the importance of eating healthy, only four of those are showing any real success.
Childhood and teen obesity have become an out-of-control pandemic, but is especially prevalent in the United States. The fact that the childhood obesity rate is almost five times higher than in the 1970’s has made professionals push for more nutrition education. It seems though that the odds are against them.
In a study where children were offered fruits and vegetables for free, they still didn’t want to take up on the offer. While prizes for eating healthy seemed to work in a project in Pennsylvania, the children soon returned to their old eating habits when the prizes were gone.
Children learn eating habits very young and once they know what they like and what they don’t, it is often times extremely difficult to change those habits. Dr. Robert Trevino even told the Associated Press that an unborn child will be born with taste buds that coincide with what the mother consumed during pregnancy.
Parents aren’t the only issue at hand that experts are trying to overcome, there is also poverty. Eating healthy is expensive. Prepackaged and processed foods are less expensive and easier to obtain than fresh fruits and vegetables.
Another problem with low-income families is exercise. Most low income families can not afford to put their children in sports or other psychical activities. Finding a safe place for children to exercise that they can afford is often times a struggle.
The challenge doesn’t stop there; there is also the effort to prevail over advertisements. According to a study done by the Kaiser Family Foundation, eight through twelve year old children viewed an average of about 21 advertisements daily on the television for unhealthy foods. There was only an average of one healthy food advertisement per 50 of other food advertisements.
Kate Houston of the USDA’s Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services says the programs are working, despite what the studies show. However, Tom Robinson (director of the Center for Healthy Weight) says that these educational programs are not working and the focus should be on behavior oriented programs.
One thing is for sure, a solution needs to be found. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is hoping to do just that. They plan on spending 500 million dollars to fund things such as supermarkets for low-income neighborhoods and meetings of those who wish to reduce unhealthy food advertisements.
MARTHA MENDOZA, “Review finds nutrition education failing.” Associated Press. URL: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070704/ap_on_he_me/failing_to_fight_fat;_ylt=AigKCMhNgYFb2TpVuBKs8pvMWM0F