Health first, for kids’ sake

Let’s curb the obesity epidemic by making it easier to buy local, healthful

Mr. Roth is a nutrition-and-exercise activist and founder of farmers’ markets in Chapmantown and Southside Oroville. A longer version of this article appears on

Currently more than half the kids in fifth grade are overweight. Twenty-five percent of Butte County’s children of color already show signs of the onset of type II diabetes. Kids no longer run and play—they waddle and videogame.

For the first time in U.S. history, we can predict today’s children will live shorter and sicker lives than their parents will. Half will come down with diabetes in their lifetime; 80 percent will be obese.

We must give home advantage to health. Privately we can look at the policies of our own homes, our work places, our clubs. Do internal policies favor highly nutritious and health-promoting foods and exercise? Do they discourage sitting still?

Here is my list (what is yours?):

• Tax soda, sweets and greasy treats to fund local health programs. Do it now locally.

• Require restaurants to limit use of salt, oils, sugar and other high-calorie foods.

• Require fast-food chains to post both food and production calorie figures.

• Refund Environmental Health and other operation fees for local farmers marketing products directly to the general public.

• Provide free EBT food stamp service at farmers’ markets, farm stands and CSAs as part of active local nutrition assistance and promotion programs.

• Make EBT enablement mandatory at all venues selling fresh, canned or frozen whole foods. Shutting families of low income out of low-cost food markets is unethical.

• Promote and facilitate local fresh produce cooperatives to provide bulk purchase and delivery of locally grown produce to schools, hospitals, senior centers, etc.

• Make local produce the mainstay of our school lunch programs.

• New or expanding businesses providing unhealthful food choices pose significant health risks. Require health mitigations.

Our clubs; classrooms; parks; hospitals; school, fire, police and recreation districts; cities; and counties are all institutions directed by, informed by, and responsible to local individuals and health advocacy groups.

Individually, we can grow a garden and buy our food whole and fresh directly from local farmers.

The efforts of struggling families and health providers are drowning in a tsunami of PR hype fueled by embedded profit-favored public policies that long ignored health.

It ain’t Mommy’s fault. Unmitigated easy access to low-nutrient, highly processed “food-like substances” is to blame. Time to stand up and fight for good mommies everywhere.