It seems as though whenever an issue arises in America, everyone rapidly looks around at their neighbor to decide who to blame. According to a 2010 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese. Parents tend to catch much of the accountability, considering they are the primary caretaker of the child. What people dont seem to understand is that the media, lifestyles, and even school have a strong impact on children as well. As soon as the child steps into school or a friends home, it becomes very hard for a parent to surveil what their child is eating and what influences them.
As a typical guardian responsibility, parents are expected to monitor what shows their child watches on TV. It would be quite taboo for a seven year-old to be exposed to the adult content of the popular mature comedy series Family Guy. A parent can easily control what their child tunes into by checking the channel guide, or even by placing parental controls on certain channels. However, Fast-Food restaurants exploit the fact that parents do not have a way to prevent their children from watching commercials, considering theyre on every single channel. According to Yales Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, the fast-food industry marketing spent $4.2 billion on advertising alone in 2010. Some may assert that a child is just as likely to come across a commercial promoting healthy lifestyles as often as a fatty fast-food commercial, but unfortunately this is not the case. According to The New York Times reporter Michael Moss, the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotionswhose purpose is to improve the health and well-being of Americans by promoting dietary guidancebudget is a mere $6.5 million. In comparison to the fast food industry, the healthy commercials budget is one-tenth of a penny per one dollar of the fast foods advertisement spending.
Sports, clubs, or any other extracurricular activities require much responsibility and are extremely time consuming. People whose lives tend to be constantly on the run can relate to this growing epidemic. This could make cooking a well-balanced, nutritious meal a hassle and almost impossible to make time for. As a third degree black belt in martial arts and a consistent volunteer at my local animal shelter, I can relate to the burden of fitting cooking into my busy schedule. After my mother rushes me to my duties, she then still needs to take care of two other children and chauffeur them to where they need to go as well. This constant schedule makes a stop to the McDonalds drive-thru a quick and cheap option to fill us up in between hobbies.
Health obsessives who go to Wendys to order a salad usually think they are outsmarting the iniquitous fast-food entrepreneurs. But when analyzed, their healthy salad can sometimes be more calorie-rich than they believe it to be. Entree salads, which are increasing in number, can be bad, too. With fried chicken on top and regular dressing, they can have more calories than a burger, lead researcher Katherine Bauer, an assistant professor in the department of public health at Temple University said in an interview with Huffington Post. People who are quick to pass judgment state that parents pay no mind to what their children are consuming. What they arent considering is the fact that parents can be tricked by this fast-food strategy just as easily. David Zinczenko made an interesting point in his essay Dont Blame the Eater, Complicating the lack of alternatives is the lack of information about what, exactly, were consuming. In his essay, Zinczenko advises people to stop pointing fingers at unaware parents, and to start blaming the companies who are fully aware that they dont supply their consumers with significant information.
Parents who have little to no time in the morning struggle to prepare a well-balanced and nutritious lunch to send their kids to school with. Instead they hand them lunch money, entrusting the schools so-called healthy food programs to feed them. In the popular food documentary Super-Size Me, Morgan Spurlock visits schools to analyze what exactly they are being offered for lunch. While the lunch lady boasted about not offering the kids Coca-Cola or Mountain Dew, Spurlock noticed that the healthy lemonade alternative they were selling contained 36 grams of sugar; this is the same amount of sugar as a can of Coke.
As a slightly self-conscious teenage girl in high school, I constantly searched for alternatives than just the normal cheeseburger and side of fries. Something struck me as abnormal when my school would advertise the Vegetable of the Day, when a whopping three out of the five days of the week were french fries because they are potatoes. A regular meal at Old Bridge High School which included an entree (including burgers, nachos, chicken sandwiches, etc.), a side (french fries, stale green beans, etc.), a drink, and a piece of fruit was $3.00. A fruit cup filled with assorted fruits which was a standard Styrofoam size was $4.25. Some may tell kids to bring their own fruit, seeing as it would be cheaper than to buy from the school. Unfortunately, my lunch period was almost two hours before the school day ended. By this time, the fruit I brought myself would be warm, unappealingly mushy, and brown. I would much rather have eaten a disgusting mystery burger than be punished for trying to make healthier choices.
Childhood obesity is now the number one health concern among parents in the United States, topping drug abuse and smoking as stated by the American Heart Association. Parents shouldnt be immediately penalized for something they either cannot control or are left in the dark with little to no awareness of the seemingly harmless food that they are feeding to their children. With such an immense amount of factors to consider for a childs food choice, perhaps parents arent the main responsibility. There are many influences as to why such a towering amount children in America are overweight and at risk for countless fatal life risks such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer and so on.