Childhood obesity, like any other problem in our society, isn’t a discrete issue in and of itself. It’s not just a matter of what kids eat and how active they are.
It’s connected to everything else in a child’s world – what kind of food the family is able to bring home, whether the community provides places and opportunities for active play, cultural norms for cooking and eating, and more.
And then there are society’s contributions to children’s lives, including videogames, junk food, and schools too preoccupied with other crises to think much about providing adequate physical activity.
In Halifax County, North Carolina, these factors converge in a generation of children with too much fat and sugar in their food and too little physical activity. Children with parents who have little understanding of the nutrition their kids need. And children living in a community that offers few positive options for them or their parents.
Halifax County has the fifth highest obesity rate in the state. County residents are well aware and concerned over the rural area’s lack of health-promoting resources.
“It’s a community that wants to change, to be healthy,” says Dr. Sharon Warren Cook, professor of social work North Carolina A&T.
These are among the reasons why Dr. Cook and Dr. Meeshay Williams-Wheeler, associate professor of family and consumer sciences, chose Halifax County for an innovative project addressing childhood obesity.