Working Together

October 7, 2011 in Diabetes, Foodland, General, Health, Nutrition by Mary Ireland

It was disheartening for me to read Dr. Grandma's post Needed: Much More Than a Name Change regarding the ADA's (American Dietetic Association) protection of the old adages such as ‘there are no good foods, nor bad foods’ and 'calorie is a calorie.' It is a sad commentary that this organization -- one that a lot of Americans trust to give them sound nutritional advice -- won't take a firm stand against junk food.

The good news is that there are organizations who are taking a stand and successfully helping people to understand good nutritional and healthy lifestyle practices.

  1. HealthCorps®, a national proactive health movement, has announced the promising results of a two-year study on its in-school health mentoring program. The HealthCorps’® program includes an in-school educational and mentoring program in 50 schools in 9 states. HealthCorps empowers students to become educated consumers and health activists who then take their message to underserved communities with upbeat events, such as the month-long Healthy Steps virtual race using pedometers and the community-based “Highway to Health” Festivals. HealthCorps programming will impact at least 25,000 teenagers and 50,000 community residents across nine states. Study results suggest HealthCorps is making significant inroads in the fight against childhood obesity using these innovative approaches to improve life-long health habits.

    This fall, HealthCorps also launched its latest initiative, FitTown USA, a nine-month partnership challenge to cities and towns across the country. Through FitTown USA, HealthCorps hopes to raise national awareness about how the environment - everything from city planning to classroom routines to building design - influences opportunities for health. 

  2. Another program, Challenge!, which pairs healthy college students with urban middle school students, was the subject of a study by the University of Maryland School of Medicine. In the Challenge! program the young adults help the adolescents adopt healthy habits, active lifestyles and a healthy weight. The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, found that the mentoring program prevented the schoolchildren from becoming overweight for at least two years after the mentorship experience. Researchers found the adolescents ate fewer snacks and desserts, and engaged in active play more often. The rate of overweight/obesity in the group declined five percent; the rate of overweight/obesity rose 11% in the control group. 
  3. A third program is FoodCorps, which started in August of this year, is a national service program that aims to improve nutrition education for children, develop school gardening projects and change what’s being served on school lunch trays. The program consists of 50 service members, working at 41 sites in 10 states, concentrated in communities with high rates of childhood obesity or limited access to healthy food.

    Mark Bittman quotes Curt Ellis, co-creator of the movie, “King Corn,” and one of three people running the FoodCorps: “Many service members have firsthand experience with the communities they’re serving. Some are going back to the towns they grew up in; others were raised on food stamps or overcame obesity. They understand these challenges from the inside.” The service members will be paid $15,000 for their year of service. Those without other sources of income will be living like many of those they are trying to serve, including being in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, which used to be called food stamps.)

These programs are a good start at a grassroots effort to change the way we eat in America. It is people armed with more valid nutritional information and no other motive than to help their fellow man. I think that as these programs expand and more programs like them are established, the cumulative effect can actually turn around the obesity epidemic.