It’s no secret that Americans are getting heavier. But what’s more worrisome is the effect of excess weight on kids. An overweight or obese person is someone who weighs more than is considered healthy for his or her height. From 1976 to 1980, 5 percent of adolescents ages 12–19 in the United States were obese.3 By 2008, that number had more than tripled.4 On top of that, 39 percent of obese children between the ages of 5 and 17 have at least two or more cardiovascular risk factors, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure.5 Even more startling, a growing number of overweight kids are developing type 2 diabetes, a condition previously seen primarily in adults.6
Learning how to eat well and be active is vitally important to all people, of all ages and body types. The key to facing this national challenge is to encourage your whole community to commit to healthy living through good food and regular physical activity.
Families, schools, community leaders, businesses, marketers, and the government all have important roles to play, but you have a secret weapon to help fight the battle: kids! Look around you: Elementary school children are creative and energetic. They’re also at a great age to learn what types of foods and portion sizes are healthy for them, and to learn why physical activity is so important.
This guide includes a wide variety of activities to encourage physical activity, food smarts, general health education, and an understanding of food marketing. Each activity is marked as *quick and easy, **bit of work, or *** long-term project to help you decide what’s right for your group.
Passion. Excitement. Joy. These wonderful qualities make children powerful agents of change and inspiration. From seat belt use to environmental awareness, it has been proven time and again that young people have the ability to make adults rethink their actions.
It’s time to harness that special energy once again.
Today, almost 69 percent of U.S. adults1 and nearly 32 percent of children and adolescents2 are either overweight or obese. Public health experts are calling obesity a health epidemic, and a problem that won’t go away on its own. It affects all of our communities and requires a fundamental change in how we approach food and physical activity.
The materials within this Leader’s Guide provide a variety of exciting ideas that we hope will inspire kids to help make changes in their lives, the lives of their families, and in their schools and communities. Whether they decide to meet with a school’s Child Nutrition Director to learn more about the new meal requirements or conduct a survey to see how many kids bike or walk regularly, there’s a great idea for every group or class.
Remember that little hands and small voices can make big changes.