Childhood obesity in Virginia has continued to increase over the past several years. According to The State of Obesity, 20 percent of 2- to 4-year-olds, 14.3 percent of 10- to 17-year-olds, and 13 percent of high-school students are obese. The greatest increase has been among high-school students: 11.1 percent were obese in 2011. This adds up to nearly 30 percent — or one in three — of Virginia’s youth. (Virginia ranks 29th for highest obesity rates in America.)
When extra pounds weigh down the youngest members of our society, we often see their school performance drop, along with their social lives, self-esteem and health. So what can we do?
To shine some light on this epidemic, here are five things you may not have known about childhood obesity:
- Communities of color often lack access to affordable, healthy food and safe, adequate space for kids to play outside. As a result, these communities are more susceptible to childhood obesity.
- Lower-income children are less likely to eat breakfast, which can contribute to less healthy eating patterns overall.
- Overweight kids are at higher risk for eating disorders in their teens and early adulthood.
- Only 4 percent of elementary schools, 8 percent of middle schools and 2 percent of high schools provide daily physical education or its equivalent.
- A child’s environment is a contributing factor to their weight. Examples include high stress, lack of proper sleep and nutrition, and infrequent meals.
A common misconception of childhood obesity is that it is primarily caused by unhealthy diet or lack of exercise.
many factors, BEYOND OVEREATING AND INFREQUENT EXERCISE, contribute to childhood obesity in the u.s.
Children gain excess weight for a variety of reasons, such as genetics, poor food choices or portion sizes (often because healthier choices aren’t available).
NVFS is committed to ending hunger in Northern Virginia and educating individuals and families on the importance of healthy eating through NVFS’ Hunger Resource Center (HRC). The HRC also helps families enroll in SNAP, alleviating their cost of groceries. And through the SERVE Breakfast! program, the HRC provides kids staying at the SERVE Family Shelter with healthy, balanced breakfasts. Children with access to healthy food, especially at breakfast, tend to have average BMIs and even perform better in school.
Fortunately, there are many resources and tips on nutrition and health to prevent and reverse childhood obesity.
- Enroll in SNAP benefits
- Participate in the WIC program for pregnant women, infants and toddlers
- Connect with health services to monitor your child’s growth and development
- Check out the information in programs such as MyPlate and Let’s Move Cities
- Connect with local Obesity Coalitions for support at your school, such as exercise and health classes
To learn how you can get more involved, please see our volunteer opportunities.