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How One Philadelphia School Battles Childhood Obesity

As schools increase their attack on childhood obesity, one school shows how a group of parents are working to ensure their kids have access to healthy food.

cornerstore

Photo: Lori Horwedel (flickr)

Philadelphia parents are trying to make sure their kids don't eat candy from corner stores for breakfast.

Philadelphia is consistently ranked one of the most overweight cities in America, but William Kelley K-8 has a unique volunteer-run program that aims at fighting childhood obesity in its students.

Recently, William Kelley was featured in the New York Times mini-documentary Food Fight that looked at the school’s strategies for fighting the childhood obesity crisis.

Candy For Breakfast

Lead by the school’s principal Amelia Brown, groups of parents wearing yellow vests stand outside the corner stores around the school in the morning trying to encourage students to not buy sweets and instead go to the school’s free breakfast.

They asked the corner stores to not sell candy to children when they are on their way to school between 8:00-8:30 a.m. Some of these parents were even recruited from the Operation Town Watch Integrated Services, which usually tackles problems with crime and drugs in the neighborhood.

Perishing Perishables

The William Kelley parent volunteers are joining other Philadelphia organizations trying to improve their children’s nutrition.

The Food Trust is a nonprofit organization that has been working in Philadelphia for the last decade to get more fruits, vegetables, and water into corner stores. They estimate that the average Philadelphia student eats 3,500 calories each week from corner stores, most of which only provide candy and packaged foods. However, only about 20 percent of the corner stores are part of the Food Trust program, especially because perishable fruits and vegetables are not always reliable sellers and can go bad before customers buy them.

Teaching Kids How To Eat

Like many other schools, William Kelley has taken soda and sweet snacks out of the school meal programs and vending machines. They have also risen to the new USDA standards for school meals that have been promoted by Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative.

Now whole grains, leafy greens, and legumes are common in William Kelley meals.

However, as seen in the Food Fight interviews with young students, knowing what they should eat and what foods they actually consume can be very different for children. An eight-year-old could answer correctly that she should choose broccoli over a Tastykake, but then again, she could also tell you her favorite flavor of the sweet.

Read More:

  • Philadelphia School Battles Students’ Bad Eating Habits, on Campus and Off (The Washington Post)
  • Healthy Corner Store Initiative (The Food Trust)
  • Guerrilla Nutrition: Philly Parents Ambush Morning Snacks (Take Part)
Julie Rooney

Julie Rooney is a vegetarian, musician, and artist who primarily works in video and new media. Currently she is the director of Low Road Gallery, a non-profit contemporary art gallery located in Greencastle, Indiana.

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