Obesity in children seems to have reached full-fledged epidemic status. School children are getting fatter by the minute – and adults are wringing their hands trying to find a solution for this enormous problem.

Well, the good news is that there is a solution for this problem. The first thing we must do, though, is understand why, as a nation, we are getting fatter. Let’s begin with exercise.

Exer-what?? What kind of word is that, exercise? Is it foreign? What does it mean?? Yes, for many people, the word “exercise” conjures thoughts of a medieval torture chamber. The fact of the matter is that the last time many of us went on a run or lifted some weights was when our car wouldn’t start and we had to carry the groceries home. For most of us, our lives are so sedentary that the most movement we see is at the end of the day when we walk from our jobs to our cars.

But our bodies are designed to move. That’s why we have legs and arms. If we weren’t built to be mobile creatures, we’d simply be big blobs of derriere with fingers to use for typing and heads with eyes to use for re-reading what we already typed. The advent of robotics and computers altered our work environments, so much so that most of us spend the majority of our day sitting – not moving. To combat the change in our work environments, we must exercise and eat properly. Exercise is a must nowadays, in order to be healthy and live longer. This is true for everyone – including kids.

Kids sit all day in school – and then they go home and sit some more, in front of the TV, video games, or the computer.  Just like adults, children need to incorporate more exercise into their lives.

But let’s talk for a moment about nutrition and the school districts. Because money is always a consideration, the lowest bidder gets to the job of feeding our children. This means our children get the lease expensive food. And the least expensive food necessarily means the lowest quality food.

Let’s see. We want strong, healthy children, but we provide them non- or low-nutrient food and just hope they will somehow thrive anyway. In the ideal situation, our children would eat only certified organic whole foods. If they ate this way, we could almost certainly eliminate most diseases and other health risks – including obesity. Admittedly, organic food costs more – but with 40 percent more nutrients than the mostly prepackaged, high-preservative food we regularly consume, it’s worth the extra money.

If money really is the school districts’ primary reason for providing lesser quality food, it is up to parents to feed our children nutritious food ourselves. We do retain the option of giving our kids the best lunches possible for their growth, health, and nutrition. Sure, it might mean a little more work, a little extra money, and a little lower ranking on your kids’ cool factor – but isn’t it worth it, if it means knowing your children are eating well?

Schools can also step up to the nutritional plate by nixing the serving of pizza, burgers, and other items that didn’t exist 10,000 years ago. School districts, let’s get back to basics and stop catering to the overzealous junk food marketers and give our children healthy choices. If it costs you more to provide healthy lunches of vegetables, fruit, and lean meat, charge accordingly.

The care and feeding of our children is our responsibility. As parents and adults, we decide what goes into our children’s bodies. When we let them decide what to eat without our input or supervision, they often select the unhealthy option. Kids don’t understand that when they consume sugar in candy, soda, and sweet snacks, they wind up craving more sugar. We adults, armed with this kind of nutritional knowledge, have a responsibility to make sure our children eat properly – even at school.

Sure, candy machines make loads of money for the school districts. Like it or not, lots of kids smoke – how about installing cigarette machines in the schools, too? They’d likely make even more money for the school districts. An absurd idea, to be sure — but falling back on the excuse of the candy/soda machines’ earning potential is equally ridiculous, when you think of the long-term damage they cause. School districts are either concerned about our children’s well-being – or they’re not. Do you really want your child’s district to rely on solving its budget issues at the expense of your children’s health?

The solution is that we must unite to implement changes in the system. If we remain silent, our kids will keep getting fatter and unhealthier, and we will have only ourselves to blame.

If the lure of vending machine sales is too great to pass up, how about selling bottled water or school supplies like CDs, pencils and paper? What about installing some less violent but still interesting video or arcade games, things the kids will spend money on anyway – or brainstorming about other ways to make money? We charge the school districts with educating our young people. Shouldn’t they – and we – be able to come up with positive fundraising alternatives that do not damage the health of the very people they are responsible for?

The time has come to solve this problem. In order to do so, we as a nation must learn to eat healthier foods and exercise more. If you can’t pronounce the ingredients on your food labels, that’s a good sign that you probably don’t want to buy or eat that food. Children learn as much by watching us as they do by listening to us. If we set good examples by making healthy food choices, we give them a head start on the healthiest lives possible.

Scott White is a certified personal trainer and nutritionist. For more information about nutrition and fitness or info about a free initial consultation, call or e-mail Scott White’s Personal Power Training today. 480.628.1607 or e-mail him at [email protected].