Stephanie Mencimer, in answer to your question, our kids are eating themselves sick. Another article (City Desk, “Doing Right With Chicken”) in the same issue as the cover story on childhood obesity (“Hiding in Plain Sight,” 6/16) states that Bread for the City and Zacchaeus Free Clinic received $450,000 from Kentucky Fried Chicken to build a new health-care clinic in Southeast called the Colonel Harland Sanders Primary Care Center. A health-care clinic named after a fast-food mogul?! If organizers of a neighborhood health clinic for poor and working-class people don’t have the integrity to refuse money from a fast-food giant that causes many of the chronic health problems that plague the would-be clinic’s clientele, then can we really expect teenagers to exercise any better judgment when it comes to making decisions about their own health needs?
The fact is that as a society we promote and profit from the perpetuation of overeating and unhealthy eating habits. The federal government’s food-guide pyramid pushes meat, dairy, and eggs despite the overwhelming evidence that eating these foods causes chronic diseases and early deaths, particularly among people of color. Supermarkets (especially those offering fresh, quality produce) and health-food stores rarely make commitments to locate and stay in poor and working-class neighborhoods. The fast-food industry spends billions in advertising each year to entice us to eat high-calorie, high-fat, non-nutritious food. Hospitals purport to care for the sick yet feed them unhealthy food. And medical schools do not make nutrition a central part of their curricula.
So why hasn’t anyone noticed our kids eating themselves sick? Because that would require all of us—the federal government, institutions, businesses, parents, and individuals—to look at and change ourselves.