Wednesday, more than 30 agencies, foundations and businesses showcased their efforts in what was meant to be an appeal to legislators, but most lawmakers were absent since the General Assembly is in recess before Thursday’s final day.
“Together, we can turn this tide and make childhood obesity a thing that’s in decline,” said Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who bicycles for exercise and who has championed multiple obesity programs.
One in three Georgia third-graders is obese, but four out of five students in grades 4-12 can’t pass the state’s physical-fitness test. In the last 11 years, there’s been a 300 percent increase in the number of obesity-related hospital admissions of children for ailments like high blood pressure and diabetes.
Television’s 6-year-old Honey Boo Boo could be the poster child for the epidemic of overweight kids. Although she competes in beauty pageants, Alana Thompson of South Georgia’s McIntyre is frequently shown eating junk food, sleeping late and watching television.
She lives in the middle of the section of the state with the highest incidence of childhood obesity and poverty. Ironically, it’s also where much of the state’s wholesome, fresh food is grown.
That’s why the Department of Agriculture is working with the local schools to get locally grown produce served to students each day. The Department of Transportation is working to ensure safe routes for students to walk or bike to school. And the Department of Early Care & Learning with pushing to get preschools and after-school programs to incorporate exercise and fruit snacks.
State Health Officer Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, who runs the Department of Public Health, is in charge of coordinating the various state efforts.
“Our job is to make sure that all of you know what all of the rest of you are doing,” she told the assembled program representatives.