Child Poverty and Obesity: How Money Issues Lead to Weight Issues

Child poverty rates continue to grow, with a new study finding that 20 percent of American children now live below the poverty line. Unfortunately, although wallets remain lean, the waistline of these economically challenged children has grown, and obesity rates have risen. Between 2007 and 2008, 20 percent of children aged 6 to 11 were reported to be obese.  A recent study of the National School Lunch Programs (NSLP), which was created in 1946 to help low income children receive extra nutrition during the course of the school day, sought  to determine if the program was contributing to the obesity epidemic or if it’s just a matter of economics.

The growing rate of obesity in this country has sparked interest in determining ways to prevent the onset of obesity in our nation’s children.  In this study, the authors wanted to find out if the NSLP could be helping or hindering obesity prevention.  They found that although there was a larger rate of increase in Body Mass Index (BMI – obesity measurement based on height and weight) among girls than boys, it was not significant and not necessarily related to the lunch program.  There are many factors that come into play among socioeconomically challenged children, which more likely play a role in the development of obesity rather than school lunches.  It is more likely that these children have less access to physical activity and more access to fast food restaurants.  Statistically, there are more fast food restaurants located in lower income areas, making the  junk food readily available and affordable. It is also unclear if these children are choosing to eat both the food provided by the lunch program and food outside the lunch program, increasing their caloric intake, or are forfeiting their NSLP foods for less healthy options.

Although in this study the NSLP did not appear to be a causative factor between obesity and children, two major factors are brought up, lack of physical activity and access to fast food.  These seem to be directly related to obesity in low income homes.  Just 60 minutes per day for a child is all it takes to grow up a healthy weight.  Remember half of your plate should be fruits and veggies.  Look at the dietary guidelines set up by the USDA.  These can help all of us to eat fewer calories per day.

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  • “Certainly, the burden of the obesity epidemic is carried by kids in low-income communities,” says Shakira Suglia, Sc.D., an assistant professor of epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, in New York City.

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