FROM BILL MOYERS
Childhood obesity has long been considered one of the nation’s most intractable problems, complicated by issues like race, poverty and a culture that to many seems more concerned with corporate profits than children’s health. About 17 percent of American children are obese; among low-income children, the rate rises to 20 percent. But a recent report shows that the tide may finally be turning, with childhood obesity rates declining by 3 -5 percentage points in cities like New York, Los Angeles and Philadelphia.
The reasons for the reversal are still unclear, but it would be hard for anyone familiar with the work of Philadelphia’s Food Trust to discount the impact of that organization and others like it. We called Food Trust Executive Director Yael Lehmann to learn more about the new report and the role of activists in reversing the trend.
Night markets are a staple in many Asian countries — for centuries locals have used them to shop for items, eat cheaply, and entertain themselves in one spot. Today, countries and communities around the world are reinventing the night market, offering everything from traditional Asian street foods to globally-influenced cuisine.
From Good Morning America
ABC News's Chief Health and Medical editor Dr. Richard Besser visits The Food Trust. "I went to Philadelphia where an innovative new program -- low cost. It's changing the way thousands of kids eat," Besser said. "They are switching from junk food to fruits and vegetables and at the same time making it seem very cool."
From Time Magazine
"The [Food Trust's] program has been a remarkable success: one part of it, increasing the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables in elementary schools, along with nutrition education, is credited with helping reduce the incidence of overweight students by 50 percent."
First Lady Michelle Obama, July 20, 2011: “It’s about organizations like The Food Trust who have been studying this issue [access to healthy, affordable food], and creating models for how to solve it.”
"The Food Trust is transforming the food landscape one community at a time, by helping families make healthy choices and providing the access to the affordable and nutritious food we all deserve."
January 29, 2013 -- On a chilly November morning, the auditorium at the Philadelphia School District office was sweltering. In what looked like a flash mob dance rehearsal, dozens of city school students wearing blue T-shirts with the slogan “Believe the Hype” bounced and swayed to the song Gangnam Style. Forming a sweaty, smiling Conga line, they weaved around the room as local health educator and rap artist Sterlen Barr shouted, “That’s what it means to be hype!”
Despite the mid-morning dance party, much of this youth summit meant to encourage students to promote healthy changes at their schools was focused on food. Before busting their moves, the students from 40 city schools enjoyed a breakfast of Greek yogurt and listened as administration officials gave shout-outs to school-based food successes, such as a salad sale at a North Philadelphia elementary school. There’s much to celebrate here. Over the past several years, Philadelphia has revamped its school food offerings with striking success.
January 5, 2013 -- It's an extreme makeover, let's call it the "convenient store edition."
"We're trying to make fresh produce more accessible and visible to customers," said Nora Hoeft, a health specialist with the city of Minneapolis.
The initiative is called The Corner Store Project, an effort to make sure healthy foods and snacks are visible, accessible, and affordable at convenient stores across the city.
From the New York Times
December 10, 2012 -- After decades of rising childhood obesity rates, several American cities are reporting their first declines.
The trend has emerged in big cities like New York and Los Angeles, as well as smaller places like Anchorage, Alaska, and Kearney, Neb. The state of Mississippi has also registered a drop, but only among white students.
“It’s been nothing but bad news for 30 years, so the fact that we have any good news is a big story,” said Dr. Thomas Farley, the health commissioner in New York City, which reported a 5.5 percent decline in the number of obese schoolchildren from 2007 to 2011.
The drops are small, just 5 percent here in Philadelphia and 3 percent in Los Angeles. But experts say they are significant because they offer the first indication that the obesity epidemic, one of the nation’s most intractable health problems, may actually be reversing course.
January 14, 2013 -- The post-Katrina flood swept into Circle Food 5 feet deep, and new owner Dwayne Boudreaux spent years lining up the $8 million needed to repair the store and reopen it.
"Basically, we're gonna try to bring back the things we had before,” Boudreaux said. “The fresh fruits and vegetables."
Frustrated by lack of progress in the obesity fight, one of the nation's richest health charities will pay to build better stores and buy greener groceries itself, if it has to.
The Colorado Health Foundation has set aside $7.1 million for a loan-and-grant fund aimed at grocery stores and retail developers that need a subsidy to supply more nutritious goods in "food deserts."
From the Cincinnati Enquirer
January 31, 2013 -- The effort to provide consistent sources of fresh fruit and vegetables to the residents of Avondale and other Cincinnati neighborhoods lacking grocery stores has received a substantial boost.
The Center for Closing the Health Gap received a $150,000, two-year grant from the Greater Cincinnati Foundation to support the Do Right! Healthy Corner Store Network Initiative. It is the first local foundation to award a grant to address food deserts in Cincinnati – the lack of a grocery store as a consistent source of fresh fruit and vegetables.
From the New York Times
December 18, 2012 -- Mark Bittman's op-ed on the need for dietary seat belts.
"Philadelphia hasn’t allowed soda or sugary drinks in vending machines in schools since 2004, and its schools no longer have deep-fryers; the Food Trust (as I wrote in 2011) has pushed healthier food in corner stores. And New York has, among other things, banned trans fats from restaurants, made it easier for low-income people to shop at farmers’ markets and run a highly visible ad campaign that tells subway riders, for example, the number of miles they’d have to walk to account for that sugary drink.
Like Philadelphia, New York has come close to passing a soda tax, which has raised consciousness about the dangers of sugary drinks. The so-called Big Gulp Ban (which will not, sadly, affect actual Big Gulps) will be implemented in March; if it hangs around, New York’s obesity statistics may slide even further below the national average before too long.
These are dietary seat belts, and seat belts save lives. And only a jerk would say: “It’s a slippery slope toward telling me what to do. If I want to ride without a seat belt, it’s my right!”"
From Huffington Post
October 10, 2012 -- The Food Trust's executive director Yael Lehmann along with Partnership for a Healthier America's Larry Soler wrote an op-ed on how Philadelphia's comprehensive approach to obesity prevention may be a model to help curtail the complex problem of obesity.
September 18, 2012 -- Philadelphia was lauded for lowering obesity rates in public school children through a decade-long collaboration with The Food Trust. Black male students and Hispanic female students, two groups that had significantly higher obesity rates, have seen the greatest improvements.
From USDA Blog
August 17, 2012 -- Joani Walsh, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs commends The Food Trust's farmers' market program.
"Pennsylvania is among the country's top ten states represented in the USDA's National Farmers Market Directory. I recently completed a trip through the Fruit Belt to the Lehigh Valley and Philadelphia to see how USDA's support of farmers market development is impacting communities and helping farmers across the Keystone State.
"Clark Park and The Food Trust, which operates 26 markets in Philadelphia, both play a critical role in the city's initiative to expand access to healthy food while also expanding economic opportunities for area farmers."
August 13, 2012 -- The Philadelphia Inquirer reports on USDA deputy undersecretary Joani Walsh's visit to The Food Trust's Clark Park farmers' market.
""We've been paying a lot of attention to Philadelphia for quite some time. It's really exciting," Walsh said. "Philly's just really been out in front with some groundbreaking work."
Philadelphians have increased access to farmers' markets in the last few years, Walsh said, and that has led the way for the rest of the country."