According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Approximately 17% (or 12.5 million) of children and adolescents aged 2–19 years are obese. Since 1980, obesity prevalence among children and adolescents has almost tripled.”

Yikes.

As is the case with adults, carrying around extra pounds can cause health problems or worsen existing ones, ranging from diabetes and heart disease to breathing issues and disrupted sleeping patterns. None of these conditions are good for the child wishing to do well in school (missed classes due to ongoing medical concerns can be detrimental to studies at any grade level). Furthermore, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, “Child and adolescent obesity is also associated with increased risk of emotional problems. Teens with weight problems tend to have much lower self-esteem and be less popular with their peers. Depression, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder can also occur.”

A better way for children to learn about nutritious foods

In an effort to tackle the obesity issue among young children and teens, schools are encouraging them to eat more cleansing foods, especially ones that they personally had a hand in growing and preparing. Seems to go hand in hand with the “learn by doing” approach, no? If it works, it’s a significant step in changing the way children think about food so they go on to become healthier and maintain an appropriate weight.

A 2013 issue of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior reported on a study which found that direct involvement between children and foods increased their willingness to choose new and more nutritious options. Researchers found that kids who grew and cooked their foods were more inclined to make better decisions, an outcome that has sparked educators and parents to look at the ways youth are taught about nutrition.

What schools are doing to fight childhood obesity

Some schools purchase updated books about food and health or even bring in specialists who provide hands-on demos. For example, many teachers have a garden class where an expert discusses everything from how seeds grow to when certain vegetables should be planted. Sometimes, cooks are brought in to teach the importance of nutrition and portions.

Of course, fighting the childhood obesity crisis doesn’t rest solely on our school systems. Follow-through at home is necessary to keep the health momentum going. It’s recommended to eat together as a family, encourage more outdoor physical activity and engage with children by growing and eating fresh fruits and vegetables that are planted in home gardens.

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