The programs have been put in place. The media has reported and scrutinized. The schools have become a battleground over soda and candy machines. But are we making progress on the issue of overweight and obese children? The Associated Press says no. The news organization reviewed 57 scientific studies of programs designed to teach kids healthier eating habits. According to a Boston Globe report (registration required), the AP’s researchers found that only four programs showed success at changing the way children eat.
Programs that try to persuade kids to eat their fruits and veggies through videos of dancing produce or by giving away free healthy treats have failed to deliver the hoped-for results.
Last year a major federal pilot program offering free fruits and vegetables to school children showed fifth-graders became less willing to eat them than they had been at the start. Apparently they didn’t like the taste.
All the dancing celery in the world won’t change the entrenched societal issues that are bound up with children and weight, the article notes. Genetics along with parents who make bad food choices for themselves shoulder some of the blame, but poverty, with its lack of access to healthy food and exercise, is seen as one of the most potent predictors of obesity risk.
‘Calorie burning has become the province of the wealthy,’ said [pediatric endocrinologist Dr. Philip] Zeitler. ‘I fear that what we’re going to see is a divergence of healthy people and unhealthy people. Basically, like everything else, it costs money to be healthy.’