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Anti-Obesity programs in schools are not enough to combat childhood obesity

News of today’s childhood obesity crisis is news to no one.  One in five children is currently obese, and that number doesn’t seem to be coming down anytime soon.  Across the country, school and other outlets are trying hard to combat it by instituting healthy eating and lifestyle programs.  In fact, according to some surveys, over 80% of parents with school-age children report having such programs in their child’s school.

However, to the dismay of many, these programs are not having the desired effects on the rate of childhood obesity.  Part of the problem lies with the fact that eating habits are developed long before a child ever enters the classroom.  By the time a child enters kindergarten or first grade, they have already had 5-6 years of habit developed.  Making a diet and activity switch is a difficult feat, especially if the child’s only experience with health lies within the school day.  The mixed messaging of nutritional information at school coupled with a home life not conducive to optimum wellness can create a disconnect that enables children to continue on a path that doesn’t encourage change.

It is absolutely critical for the messaging to begin at home.  Parents can’t rely on others to change the health path of their children – it’s important to create healthy habits early because it has a greater likelihood to stick.  The best time to start is when a parent begins to feed a baby solid foods and continue from there.   By introducing a young child to a variety of colors and textures in the form of various fruits, veggies, whole grains, and low fat dairy items, a parent can send a message that eating in a healthy manner doesn’t mean boring.

While it’s much easier to start from scratch than to fix bad habits, parents shouldn’t despair if there is a need for improvement at home.  Begin slowly and with moderation as opposed to drastically overhauling the family diet is much more likely to be received without a battle.  While it might seem like a nightmare, bringing children to the grocery store is a great way to help them learn about healthy food choices and make them feel like they have a say in what they’re eating.  The same goes for getting them involved with food prep – children naturally want to learn and are much more likely to eat food that they have had a hand in creating.

It is important to remember that children learn by example.  Eating as a family and setting a good example is critical.  Find ways to budget in having healthy food in the house like buying local, in-season produce.  It’s never too late to get a family on the path to wellness and giving a child the best gift possible – the gift of a healthy future.

About Adriana Villavicencio

Dr. Adriana Villavicencio is the youngest child of Ecuadorian immigrants. She has moved 29 times in her life, taking her on a journey from California to Bangalore, India, and New York City, where she recently earned a Ph.D. in Education Leadership and works as a Research Associate at New York University. An avid traveler, Adriana has collected experiences in four different continents and 16 different countries. But as a former high school English teacher, some of her fondest memories are those of her brilliant and brilliantly funny students in Brooklyn and Oakland. Adriana has contributed to several publications including the Daily News and, and is a managing editor for the Journal of Equity in Education. She earned a B.A. in English and an M.A. in English Education at Columbia University, and currently serves on the board of Columbia’s Latino Alumni Association (LAACU). She enjoys scary movies with red vines, Sauvignon Blanc, and her Maltese dog, Napoleon.

To learn more about Adriana’s education consulting company, please visit

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.

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