In case you missed it, President Obama has again proclaimed September as National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. And you probably did miss it, as much of the media seem to have moved on to other hot button issues.
Trust me on this one - I used the Kim Kardashian Test. You're not familiar with the test? It's simple. Go to Google News and enter the keyword "Kim Kardashian." A few days ago, the result was 8,860,000 hits. So then enter the keyword "National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month." Result? 534 hits.
"Childhood obesity epidemic?" Just 1,690 hits. OK, so you want to go wide? "Childhood obesity" alone gets you 61,670 hits.
I'm not saying that we haven't made progress on the epidemic that is childhood obesity. We have - but it's still an epidemic. Government data indicates that even though rates have remained stable, about 17% of American children and adolescents aged 2-19 (an alarming 12.7 million children!) are obese. Add to that number the children who are considered merely overweight and that jumps to more than 30%. And it's no secret that nutrition habits learned in childhood are difficult to change in adulthood.
Michelle Obama's Let's Move initiative began in 2010, and was backed up by a Presidential Memorandum that established the first national taskforce on childhood obesity and drew on the departments of the Interior, Health and Human Services, Agriculture and Education. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act resulted, but the commitment to the fight against childhood obesity must continue at the grassroots level because legislation is not enough. Mrs. Obama said in 2012: "When we started Let's Move, we wanted to end our epidemic of childhood obesity in a generation so that kids growing up today would develop different habits and they would grow up healthier, and they would grow up with the tools and the information they need - would need to make good choices."
And that's what Junior Leagues' Kids in the Kitchen is about as well - creating lasting change that begins with the education of children and their parents about the importance of good nutrition.
Children's health and wellness has been a key issue for The Junior League since our founding in 1901, and Junior Leagues' Kids in the Kitchen was established four years before Let's Move! Now in its 10th year, and with programs in more than 200 Leagues in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the U.K., KITK has grown into one of the most-successful, all-volunteer efforts in the fight against childhood obesity.
The award-winning program was selected by Kashi, the premier natural food company, to be a featured REAL PROJECT partner in 2013 on 1.8 million boxes of their Cinnamon Harvest Cereal. And Kashi has further recognized the innovative work of numerous individual Leagues in addressing healthy eating and nutrition among children at the community level through generous grants.
But we are just one organization. Other organizations are doing great work, too, and the epidemic is being addressed at the grassroots level in many different ways...through school gardens, programs that promote physical activity and healthy eating for kids, and nutrition education families (and our Leagues are partnering with many of them!).
So what can you do to help in the fight? Use your own media - websites, blogs, Facebook and Twitter - to get the word out! Let's make sure that every month is a childhood obesity awareness month. And Google is an incredibly important tool to create awareness - so let's get those Google numbers up!