At Three O’clock Project our passion is keeping the children in our communities healthy. From delivering nutritious, balanced meals directly to after school and summer programs, to providing nutrition education resources for children, families, and program leaders, we work every day to improve the health and wellness of children in our communities.
As a health-focused organization in Louisiana - a state who has the sixth highest obesity rate in the country - we take childhood obesity seriously. According to the CDC, one in five U.S. children are obese. Not only does childhood obesity put children at risk for serious health conditions later in life, such as high blood pressure, type II Diabetes, and heart disease, it is also linked to lower academic achievement and self-esteem. Childhood obesity sets kids up for serious hardships throughout life, but the good news is that it is 100% preventable and reversible. As with anything else, knowledge is power, and the goal of this blog is to provide the information you need to help the children and families in your life strive for their healthiest selves.
Obesity is a risk for all Americans but it is particularly prevalent in low-income communities due to limited (or no) access to fresh foods. These places, called “food deserts,” are areas where folks must rely on cheap fast food, or food products that can be purchased in small gas stations and convenient stores. These processed foods are high in sugar, calories, fat, and cholesterol, and contribute to weight gain and other health issues. At 19.6% Louisiana’s poverty rate is significantly higher than the national average of 14.6%. The link between poverty and obesity in Louisiana is undeniable. Even for LA residents who do not reside in food deserts, the food culture in Louisiana promotes indulgent foods in excessive quantities – buttery vats of gumbo, overstuffed fried seafood poboys, pounds and pounds of salty crawfish, sugary king cakes, and syrupy snowballs. We have a culture of eating like no other! It is no wonder our state faces such high rates of disease.
Obesity can affect more than just children's physical health; it has the potential to influence academic achievement and social acceptance, as well. According to a 2017 survey conducted by Well Ahead LA, an initiative aimed at improving the health and wellness of Louisiana residents, 35% of Louisiana high school students are overweight or obese. They additionally found that overweight or obese students were more likely to receive C's, D's, and F's than children at an average weight. Though it is not true for all, obese children are more likely to experience low self-esteem due to the social stigma associated with weight gain. Our society promotes and rewards thinness, making it more difficult for heavier children to receive social approval. This means that obese children could potentially face bullying, depression, or alienation from their peers.
Childhood is a developmental phase in which young people are learning the habits that will stick with them for the rest of their lives. If they grow up eating a diet of cheeseburgers and fries, they will likely not be inclined to try green leafy vegetables in adulthood. If kids go through their childhood feeling self-conscious, they likely will not carry themselves with confidence in their jobs and personal lives. These are just a few of the many reasons Three O'clock Project is dedicated to introducing kids to nutritious foods and enrichment programs after school. However, it doesn't stop there. Let's combat this public health issue as a community, so our children can thrive as their best and healthiest selves!
Let's move forward with a positive outlook! Childhood obesity is 100% preventable and reversible. Here are some things you can do to help promote better health for the children in your community:
1. Advocate for impoverished areas: plant a community garden, contact your local officials, petition for a grocery store or farmer's market, or contact us today about healthy meals for children in your community!
2. Stay focused on health, not appearance, when addressing the issue of obesity with children.
3. Promote whole foods and moderate exercise everyday! Make it fun with kid-friendly recipes and games that involve movement!
4. Educate! Share what you've learned here, do more research, share resources, connect with other health-focused groups in your community and join forces!
Comment below to tell us ways that you're promoting health to the kiddos in your community!