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June 20, 2021

Obesity on the menu for children

Fast food giants are wowing kids with their enticing marketing tactics including  talking dogs, kooky clowns, and colourful cartoon and crowned characters.

And don't forget, each kids' meal comes with the latest and greatest toy.

The list goes on. And so does the obesity.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), childhood obesity is not improving.

The organization points the finger at advertising as the main culprit specifically targeting children via television, social media and smart phones.

Obesity has nearly doubled worldwide since 1980 and more than 40 million children under the age of five in 2011 were overweight, according to WHO statistics. Now new numbers reveal that one on three children aged 6 to 9 is overweight or obese.

Zsuzsanna Jakab, director of WHO's regional unit for Europe, says, "Children are surrounded by adverts urging them to consume high-fat, high-sugar, high-salt foods, even when they are in places where they should be protected, such as schools and sports facilities."

However, there are champions out there rallying for better healthy eating choices, including nine-year-old Hannah Robertson of Kelowna, B.C.

She recently decided to take a stand about unhealthy fast food by challenging McDonald's CEO Don Thompson in her poignant speech at the company's annual shareholders' meeting.

An excerpt from her prepared statement to the CEO, states, "Something that I don't think is fair is when big companies try to trick kids into eating food that isn't good for them by using toys and cartoon characters. If parents haven't taught their kids about healthy eating then the kids probably believe that junk food is good for them because it might taste good."

His response? "First off, we don't sell junk food, Hannah."

The American Medical Association (AMA) is now recognizing obesity as a disease and recommending a number of measures to fight it.

Now, mayors from major cities across the United States are pushing against the use of food stamps to purchase sodas and other sugary beverages claiming it is an important step in the fight against obesity.

In 2012, more than 47 million Americans used food stamps under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The program provides benefits to eligible low-income families enabling them to purchase prepackaged foods with the exception of alcohol, cigarettes, hot food, pet food, vitamins, prescriptions and some other items.

If the 18 American mayors get their way, SNAP recipients will be unable to purchase sugary beverages under the program.

The mayors believe the government should not be supporting unhealthy food purchases under a program that promotes healthy nutrition for families in need.

And now, John Guarino, President, Coca-Cola Refreshments Canada, is speaking in Toronto to talk about his company's business in Canada and to discuss how Coca-Cola is taking a leading role in fighting obesity by bringing together business, government and civil society.

So where do we go from here?

Do we let decision-makers decide what is best for us or do we continue to make our own decisions -- healthy or not?

By Donna Donaldson, MSN Money

Do you think there is a problem with childhood obesity? What do you think can be done?




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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...