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Addressing Childhood Obesity

September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, an observance that began in September 2011, brought about by a Presidential Proclamation that introduced the Let’s Move! Initiative. The intent of Let’s Move! was to bring federal agencies, nonprofit organizations and corporations together to help solve the national problem of childhood obesity. But how prevalent is childhood obesity?

According to the CDC, obesity affects one in five children. The long-term health risks that could result from childhood obesity include Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, asthma, and even cancer.

Learning about the causes of childhood obesity is a good place to start when looking at the health and long-term wellbeing of our children. The CDC defines childhood obesity as “when a child is well above the normal or healthy weight for his or her age and height.”

Excessive weight gain can be based on behaviors such as what kinds of food a child eats or how frequently a child engages in physical activity. Excessive weight can also be genetic or be influenced by the people around them or their ability to access healthy foods.

The Mayo Clinic also includes psychological factors as potential contributors to childhood obesity such as “personal, parental and family stress.” The Mayo Clinic’s website also notes that some children may overeat to cope with problems or to deal with challenging emotions or even to stave off boredom. Their parents might have similar tendencies.

If your day care is participating in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), ChildWatch provides the tools that help you collect and track key CACFP data such as Meal & Attendance. Using the ChildWatch system, you can process your claim every month with automatic USDA disallowances. You can also report your claim information for submission to your sponsor or directly to the state

For CACFP Meal Nutrition Planning, the minimum serving amount is automatically determined for each age group. You can cycle menus quickly and ensure each meal served is reimbursable. ChildWatch includes nearly 600 USDA-compliant menu items (including CN label items) for your convenience, but you can also customize as needed.

The eServices feature set of ChildWatch lets you relay important information with parents about good nutrition. Keep parents informed through the Parent Portal using a computer or mobile device including sharing expert recommendations and tips for lunches and snacks.

Stay on top of the most current literature on childhood nutrition and provide resources to both your staff and to parents to help guide food and meal choices:

2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans

Overweight and Obesity Prevention Strategies & Guidelines

The CDC Guide to Strategies to Increase the Consumption of Fruits and Vegetables

Early Care and Education Strategies: Spectrum of Opportunities (CDC)

As you can see, childhood obesity is a complex issue that is affected by – and affects – every aspect of a child’s life including as they move into adulthood. Developing healthy eating habits starts at home but continues at day care or school. Although no single action or activity can completely eliminate risk factors, an attention to daily food intake, coupled with regular physical activity, can make a difference in a child’s life.