Kayti Faustini, faustikb@muohio.edu

Food can define a culture, make someone feel wholesome or be one’s worst enemy. With new technology emerging, gym programs being cut and dining hall cuisine made up of processed foods, obesity is creeping up on America rapidly. Schools need to take charge for America’s youth.

An obese, lethargic and unhealthy youth will destroy a society. Schools need to stop feeding students fried frozen foods because it saves money. Instead, students should be required to do physical activity as a part of their requirements for middle school or high school graduation. By instilling these habits earlier on ensures children will avoid eating McDonald’s three times a day, they will go for walks instead of turning on the Xbox and will learn to be more creative.

Recent studies show Southern states have a rapidly growing obese population; however, the Northern and Western states are steadily moving up in that direction. According to obesityinamerica.org, 17 percent of children and adolescents between the ages of 2 and 19 are obese. Moreover, with new technology, fast food restaurants and the hectic schedule of many Americans, these numbers are just going to grow staggeringly worse. The pejorative effect obesity is on health care as it contributes to diseases, such as diabetes, which severely hurt our country.

The social norm cannot welcome obesity and if these upward trends are not stopped then social institutions will suffer. If children continue to become obese they will eventually develop health problems earlier on, which will negatively impact the economy. Ultimately, less people will be able to do physical labor, thus resulting in less people engaging in diligent working habits. If parents and schools taught healthy habits, America’s economy would be in better a condition with less money contributing to preventative health care initiatives.

Obesity trends may also be related to family income. A more destitute family will most likely be obese because of the consumption of cheap foods from places like Burger King. Healthy affordable restaurants should start targeting low-income neighborhoods and poor school districts and help educate children about how to properly engage in physical activity while introducing low priced foods that are just as easily affordable as fast food.

Contributing factors to obesity are also genetics along with the balance between physical activity, energy intake and environmental factors within schools, childcare, home and the community. Americans need to start helping children lead healthy and active lifestyles. Sports instill time management skills, discipline, diligence and teamwork. These are all qualities that are essential to individuals becoming successfully engaged citizen leaders. According to obesityinamerica.org, individuals who believe that obesity is only a genetic problem accept this upcoming generation may have a shorter life expectancy than any previous generation since the Civil War. These individuals do not believe this is a national problem and many of them think this is a situation that should be dealt with in the institutions of family not school or government.

Change will happen if communities put a stop to fast food restaurants and open more fresh produce markets. Communities need to come together and fight for the health and life of younger generations. If communities stand up to the government subsidizing corn and encourage money to be distributed to fresh produce farmers, rather than a Big Mac, French fries and carbonated beverages. This would allow for the elimination of cheaper food and replace them with salads and water. Healthy food should not be a luxury and individuals who are in denial are contributing to several deaths related to heart disease.  Americans don’t have to spend countless hours in the gym. In fact, a recent study has shown that exercise may contribute to weight gain by stimulating hunger.

Americans need to stop being lazy and complaining about the downward direction the country is heading and actually work to offset these trends. Individuals need to take care of their lives and children to encourage them to become contributing benefactors to society.