America; Our Kids are Fat and Hungry

CHILDHOOD OBESITY

The obesity epidemic currently sweeping the United States is a particularly poignant problem for the nation’s children. A full 30% of all kids age six to 19 are overweight, and their numbers have doubled in the last decade, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Among minority populations in this country, the numbers are even more alarming. Statistics from the CDC show that more than 33% of Hispanic/Latino boys are overweight, as are 35.7% of African-American boys and 51.2% of Mexican-American boys. As for female children, 30.1% of Hispanic/Latino girls, 46.4% of African-American girls and 36.7% of Mexican-American girls are overweight.

We always talk about how much we care for this generation, how much we care about the next generation. We spend thousands of dollars and many hours trying to figure out ways to reach them but I think we are blind to what we are teaching them right now about self control, excess, and how to treat the temple of God (our bodies) by the way we worship food in most American churches.

The church, as representatives of Christ, needs to pull back and take a long hard look at what we are doing to our kids and the kids we are trying to reach by how we treat food in our congregations. We need to look at what we are teaching by our actions.

When the media talked about first Lady, Michelle Obama's anti obesity campaign, many conservative Christian's lit up social media with their outrage that the government was meddling in private eating habits of American citizens. But the church should have been well ahead of Mrs. Obama in working to fight this epidemic.


 Proverbs 23:20-21 says: Don't associate with those who drink too much wine, or with those who gorge themselves on meat. For the drunkard and the glutton will become poor, and grogginess will clothe them in rags. Here, as in other verses, gluttony is placed in the same category as other sinful behavior. Yet, while the church denounces the use of alcohol, we don't often speak up about the sin of overeating even though the lack of self control is usually the root of both problems.





CHILDHOOD HUNGER

In 2010, 16.2 million children lived in food insecure households. 

While we are handing out candy at every church service, feeding our teens sugary drinks, nachos and pizza, at youth events and outreaches in the name of "reaching the lost", 16.5 million American children are living in homes that do not have enough food.

The problem of childhood hunger is not simply a moral issue. Child hunger hampers a young person's ability to learn and becomes more likely to suffer from poverty as an adult. Scientific evidence suggests that hungry children are less likely to become productive citizens. 

Most churches do give out groceries to needy families. At the Dream Center we give out bags of groceries, the Methodist church beside us gives out meat and dairy products once a week and many churches I know of do have a pantry stocked with canned goods and other non perishables that they give to needy families.

But research has shown that we are not helping the hungry when we give them junk food from our church pantries or on an outreach. Food that is void of nutritional value only serves to make health issues worse and can lead to obesity even in kids that come from "hungry" homes.

...refined grains, added sugars, and fats are generally inexpensive and readily available in low-income communities. Households with limited resources to buy enough food often try to stretch their food budgets by purchasing cheap, energy-dense foods that are filling – that is, they try to maximize their calories per dollar in order to stave off hunger.  While less expensive, energy-dense foods typically have lower nutritional quality and, because of overconsumption of calories, have been linked to obesity.

When doing outreach into poor communities It only takes a short time of reading the research to know that giving out junk in these communities is harmful, not helpful. We need to toss out the idea that giving away anything is better then nothing and look into grants that pay for community gardens, healthy snacks, etc. How cool would it be if an outreach consisted of people going door to door giving away home grown carrots or tomatoes grown by the congregation of the church on the corner, then handing them a flier inviting them to participate in the community garden?
  
We the church in America need to realize that we are a huge part of the Childhood obesity and childhood hunger problem. We need to reverse that and be a huge part of the solution. Some churches have taken steps in the right direction and more need to follow their lead. 

(Reuters) - Pastor Michael Minor stirred a bit of controversy at his northwest Mississippi church when he banned fried chicken from the fellowship hall. But convinced that faith communities need to step up their efforts against obesity, Minor is now urging fellow African-American congregations nationwide to make the health of their members a priority."Our bodies are not our own. They're a gift from God," he said. "We should do a better job with our bodies."

Instead of treating food like a sacred cow that we avoid like an elephant in the room, we need to in stead address this issue head on. We need to reevaluate how we use it for outreach, how we use it to fill pews, what foods we give to our kids and what message we are sending to the world around us by our staggering rate of obesity.

Public health experts say faith communities, with their long records of tending to the sick and driving social change, are in a unique position to help tackle the obesity epidemic and the severe health problems associated with it."Churches are a foundation in the community," said Victor Sutton, director of the Office of Preventive Health for the Mississippi state health department."Sometimes you can have a doctor tell someone something, and they'll blow it off," he said. "A pastor can tell someone what to do, and they'll take it as a scientific fact." 

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