I couldn’t help grinning last night as I read a piece on the New York Times’ website (it’s out in the paper today) about childhood obesity. Yes, the issue still looms large in our country—and our city—as a terrifying epidemic poised to wreak havoc on our fragile health system. But as the Times notes, the rate of obesity in many major cities, including Philadelphia, is slowly but surely ticking downward. As in, reversing.
As we noted back in September, a study found that the rate of obesity in Philly’s public schools declined by 5 percent between the 2006-07 and the 2009-10 school years. But Philly’s not alone: other major cities, including LA and New York, have noticed similar downward-moving trends. And although the reversal could be due to a number of factors—i.e. fewer obese children enrolling in schools, thereby throwing off the numbers—it seems far too coincidental that the cities in which drops have been noted are also the ones that have enacted aggressive policies to curb the childhood-obesity trends. Cities like Philly.
I love this part:
Philadelphia has undertaken a broad assault on childhood obesity for years. Sugary drinks like sweetened iced tea, fruit punch and sports drinks started to disappear from school vending machines in 2004. A year later, new snack guidelines set calorie and fat limits, which reduced the size of snack foods like potato chips to single servings. By 2009, deep fryers were gone from cafeterias and whole milk had been replaced by one percent and skim.
Other homegrown ideas touted in the piece is the Food Trust’s Corner Store Initiative, which now has 640 local stores on the horn stocking healthier foods for after-school snacks. And there are individual efforts, too, like a sixth grade teacher who’s running “taste tests” in the classroom so kids can try food they’ve never even seen before—food like broccoli and cauliflower.
Yes, the changes are slow, and the efforts to make a dent in obesity are often slow-going. (See: Philly’s twice-tabled soda tax.) But the point is that these things are happening right here in our city, and we’re beginning to see the early signs of real change.
I, for one, am happy people are taking notice.