By Joe Romano,
It's bizarre that the produce manager is more important to my children's health than the pediatrician.
— Meryl Streep
For centuries adults have been telling kids to eat healthier foods.
Maybe we should be showing them healthy food, instead. Researchers from Iowa State University conducted a study at a summer camp for children ages 6-12 with diabetes. They used a bright, colorful, rotating digital display that featured an image of a salad. The researchers found that the kid's salad consumption increased by as much as 90 percent!
They were offered all the usual fare, like tacos, sloppy joes, fruits and vegetables; the option of a salad bar was simply added to the menu, along with the attractive signage.
"The cool effect that we found and didn't expect was with boys," said Laura Smarandescu, an assistant professor of marketing at Iowa State. "It makes sense because boys like video games and interact more with technology. We noticed many boys stopping to look at the display and their behavior seemed to be more influenced by the presence of the display."
The effect is so strong that First Lady Michelle Obama began a major effort last month to push food companies and television broadcasters to do more to promote healthier foods to children — and to do it faster.
"The fact is that marketing nutritious foods to our kids isn't just good for our kids' health, it can also be good for companies' bottom lines," said Mrs. Obama, who is leading a White House initiative that is aimed at reducing childhood obesity.
According to the US Census Bureau, there were 74.1 million children in the country on July 1, 2010. This was 1.7 million more children than in 2000. This number is projected to increase to 80.3 million in 2030.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, in 1976–1980, only 6 percent of children ages 6–17 were obese. By 2009–2010, that number had tripled — about 18 percent of children ages 6–17 were obese.
In addition, racial and ethnic diversity has grown dramatically in the US in the last three decades. In 2009-2010, Mexican-American (23 percent) and Black (26 percent) children were more likely to be obese than white, non-Hispanic (15 percent) children. At the same time, one in three kids in the US is on track to develop diabetes.
Meanwhile, a "family glitch" in the 2010 health care law threatens to leave up to 500,000 children without coverage. Families who can afford to pay for insurance will see thousands of dollars in health insurance increases. "The family glitch is definitely a drafting error that Congress made that needs to be fixed," said Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families. "But that seems unlikely."
In addition, two-thirds of kids who are eligible for Medicaid or CHIP are not enrolled. Advocates hope that adults signing up for insurance through the health exchanges that opened this month will find out that their kids are eligible, and have said that as many as 4 million kids could sign up.
But it is largely up to parents, communities, and local businesses to help get our kids' health on track.
With this in mind, GreenStar is working to promote healthy eating to kids through a series of new initiatives to begin over the next few months.
GreenStar has just begun a partnership with the Ithaca Children's Garden (ICG) to present the Edible Eco-Gardens, Outdoor Kitchen, and Edible Educational Programming to the Ithaca community and beyond.
The ICG/GreenStar Partnership for Healthy Kids fills an urgent, unmet need in our community, where the local poverty rate hovers near 20 percent. Because, as we've seen, low-income children tend to experience higher rates of obesity and malnutrition, the Edible Gardens Program is an especially vital resource to impart to local youth the importance of nutrition and physical activity.
The Edible Eco-Gardens and Outdoor Kitchen is the heart of our outdoor classroom at the garden, where we will teach, along with ICG staff, about how kids can be responsible stewards of the earth.
While focusing on healthy eating, other programs will utilize the Edible Eco-Gardens for teaching and learning, discovery, planting, cultivating, and harvesting. In total, there are approximately 16,000 visitors each year to the Ithaca Children's Garden, and that number grows with each new garden development. The Edible Eco-Garden is one of the most popular gardens, and visitors of all ages are frequently seen exploring and interacting in the garden. The ICG/GreenStar Partnership for Healthy Kids is aligned with Healthy People 2020 indicators for nutrition, physical activity, and obesity — our nation's leading health goals established by the US Department of Health and Human Services.
In addition to serving thousands of casual visitors of all ages to the Edible Eco-Garden, the ICG-GreenStar Partnership for Healthy Kids will directly serve approximately 236 children ages 3-14, most of whom will have multiple exposures to the program, and 36 whose participation includes active parental and sibling involvement.
Many classes will be at the garden and outdoor kitchen, but new classes and events for kids and families will also take place in the classrooms of GreenStar's new educational and meeting facility to be opened this autumn in what is currently the Enterprise Car Rental Building.
GreenStar already owns this building, which will be converted into learning labs for both children and adults, with an expanded array of educational opportunities for all. The new classrooms and meeting spaces will provide a myriad of new ways to learn about healthy living.
Of course, GreenStar's own produce departments are the best place to show kids how to eat healthy food, so starting this Autumn, kids ages 12 and under are invited to become GreenStar Co+op Explorers and be eligible to receive one piece of fruit per visit! To become a card-carrying Co+op Explorer, kids simply need to bring a parent or supervising adult to the customer service counter and ask to become a Co+op Explorer. Each child will be issued their very own super official Co+op Explorers card that can be used at outreach events and in other fun ways in our stores! Look for further details posted in our stores and on our website.
Meanwhile, GreenStar Community Projects (GSCP) has just completed their Food Justice Summit, raising money and awareness to get healthy food to those who currently don't have access. It is the mission of GSCP to ensure equitable access to healthy food, which has previously been a limited privilege.
An important part of the Summit was its third Iron Chef Junior event, which got kids preparing their own healthy dishes for the attendees. Kids and families also participated in the Farm-a-Thon, getting their hands dirty down on the farm at several locations throughout the greater Ithaca area.
We at GreenStar recognize that it's time to stop talking and to start showing kids more and more about how to eat healthy foods and live a healthy lifestyle. Be on the lookout for the fruits (and vegetables) of these new GreenStar kids initiatives!
New in Produce
|Thanks, Life is Good|
Giving thanks doesn't end in November. The local bounty continues with root veggies, apples, cider, and trees.
This month I intended loquacious prose built upon the ever-busy world, intertwined with our local experience of cold, winter, snow, and beauty, but it just didn't sit. It seems like every month in this space I ask that we enjoy and respect our liberties and freedoms, spiritual, emotional, physical, or otherwise. It doesn't change from month to month or even day to day — every minute, every second is important to look upon and be thankful for and reflect and exist in. During the holiday months, it's especially important to realize how we act and who we are, because the consumption of product can be blinding and unrelenting. I'm thankful for this region, its people, its farms, and our Co-op: this month that means Remembrance Farm's rainbow carrots, Stick and Stone's mixed root vegetables, The Good Life Farm's bagged mixed winter greens, Black Diamond's brilliant heirloom apples, and Littletree's delicious cider. And, holiday trees! I am thankful.