Our generation is facing a crisis of epidemic proportions. In fact, we are the first generation predicted to have a shorter life expectancy than our parents. What is the cause of this frightening news? Obesity, and it is increasing at an alarming rate among children and adolescents.
As a freshman, I was disturbed by what I saw my peers eating - the majority ate lunch from the school‘s vending machines! I knew something was wrong and started to educate myself about the effects of childhood obesity and its associated medical problems.
Our school‘s vending machines feed students glazed honey buns, an assortment of candy bars, potato chips, soda, and similar snacks. I knew that to improve the health of students at my school, those machines needed an overhaul. What I did not know was that they provided critical revenue to a school suffering from severe budget cuts. Unfortunately, the administration was not in a position to be forward-thinking and realize that the profit the school was making from the vending machines was minimal compared with the healthcare costs that could result.
So, I began a grass-roots campaign as an advocate for healthy eating. I wrote to healthy snack-food manufacturers who sent me samples that I distributed along with literature from the Department of Health about making better food choices.
Peer education was the next step. I made presentations to students in elementary and middle schools since they are beginning to choose their food, and I want to help them make the right choices.
Last May, I was invited to be a panelist at the Florida Secretary of Health‘s Obesity Summit. Surrounded by medical doctors, dietitians, nutritionists and other professionals, I spoke about being a teen advocate for healthy eating and how I got involved. Afterwards, health agencies from around the state asked me to make
presentations in their communities. This June, the New England Journal of Medicine published my letter regarding a pivotal article about childhood obesity.
I am passionate about educating the community about nutrition because, without knowledge, this obesity epidemic will continue to harm our society. Watching Morgan Spurlock‘s film “SuperSize Me,” I heard of a great slogan that I share with students during my presentation - they need to “vote with their forks.” We, as consumers, can make an impact on what is sold to us simply by making intelligent choices in what we decide to buy and eat. If everyone does their part, we can make a difference together.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.