Thursday, February 4, 2010

Yet Another Way We're Mortgaging Our Children's Future

One of Central Dallas Ministries' most important program is our Nurture Knowledge and Nutrition (NKN) initiative. For several years it's primary focus has been providing snacks for after school programs and lunches for summer children's programs.

We are beginning to focus more increasingly on child nutrition and obesity. As our society grows much more sedentary and eats more unhealthily, the greatest damage is seen in our children. With both the lack of quality, accessibility and affordability of fresh food and vegetables in low income communities, poor children are disproportionately affected.

This emphasis is coming at an especially opportune time, as our nation's Michelle Obama, is adopting the same cause upon which to focus our nation's attention.

"The statistics are grim: One-third of young people in the United States are overweight or obese, and one-third will suffer from diabetes at some point in their lives. In the Latino and black American community, those numbers go up to almost 50 percent. According to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, children today spend seven hours a day using some kind of media device. At the same time, school lunches are fattier, school gym classes are shorter or nonexistent, and the erosion of 1950s “neighborhood” culture means the days of playing outside until supper are long gone."

"Today, said Obama, “medical experts are predicting that this generation is on track to have a shorter lifespan than their parents.” Not only does decreased productivity and life expectancy endanger long-term American economic prosperity, diet-related diseases like asthma, diabetes, hypertension and certain cancers are slowly adding to the national health care burden."

"All of this impacts the black community more severely than the rest of America: Black men are 30 percent more likely to die from heart disease, and black women are 1.7 times more likely to be obese than their white counterparts. Black neighborhoods in major cities have been shown to have fewer fresh food options and grocery stores than the average community. And according to the government’s Office of Minority Health, black Americans have reduced access to quality health care. Children who don’t eat well are performing worse in school. At an event with the first lady at a Virginia YMCA, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said: "the unhealthier we are as a nation the more our health care costs will continue to rise," adding that the Obama administration has "not only a moral obligation but economic imperative to begin to make a change.""

Childhood nutrition is an issue that cuts across the lines of all other issues: this is an economic development issue; its a health care issue; its national security issue; its a moral issue. Its an issue that impacts our generation, their generation and generations to come.

There's a great deal of talk today about 'our children's future'. Almost exclusively we're referring to our country's fiscal debt. But we're leaving a legacy of poor health that will render all talk of any national debt moot, if they're too unhealthy to work, or won't be well enough or live long enough to pay it.

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