Friday, December 9, 2011


Choosing to eat healthy foods, like fresh fruits and vegetables, is something you probably take for granted.  To solve the childhood obesity crisis, kids' access to healthy foods, such as locally grown fruits and vegetables must improve and increase.  Fruits and vegetables are what I call REAL FOOD, as opposed to artificial foods, loaded with salt, sugar, and the bad fat, like you find at many fast food restaurants. 

I may be "going rad" on you, but what people buy from the dollar menus at fast food restaurants is not real food because it has no nutritional value.  Something stripped of all the fiber (white flour), fried in fat, and sprinkled with salt and seasonings designed to get you addicted, is not real food.  Yet, people struggling to feed their children, opt for the dollar menus because it is quick, easy, and cheap. It's also a major contributor to the childhood obesity epidemic. 

Something else you should know.  According to an article in the December 3, 2011 issue of the Vero Beach Press Journal, 18% of residents and 30% of children in the Treasure Coast of Florida DON'T REGULARLY KNOW WHERE THEIR NEXT MEAL WILL COME FROM.  

Hunger in America and obesity in America are directly related.  It has to do with access to healthy foods, access to locally grown foods, economic security, and jobs.  If you don't have a job, you have less choices about what to eat.   

Enter Judith Cruz.  Her job just got bigger.  Judith has just been appointed to Feeding America's strategic planning committee "to help formulate the national hunger relief agency's next 5-year plan to close the country's meal gap."  Judith is the CEO of our Treasure Coast Food Bank which provides a stop-gap solution for several counties here on the southeast coast of Florida.  Her Food Bank is part of Feeding America, which is an organization where I will soon be doing healthy cooking classes (they don't know it, however).  Judith deserves our support and ideas.  She is looking at long-term solutions to hunger in America.  Hunger and obesity go hand in hand.

To repeat the key point:  on the Treasure Coast of Florida 30% of kids don't regularly know where their next meal will come from.  Access to healthy food is something most people take for granted.  Yet for almost 1 in every 3 kids here, they are worried about access to ANY food, let alone healthy, fresh food. 

Hunger in America.  Obesity in America.   Be part of the solution.  Go to and

Growing Healthy Kids is a movement to improve the health - and lives - of America's children, one child and one garden at a time.  Because failure is not an option.

Nancy Heinrich
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Obesity in Kids and Vitamin D

"Obese children with lower vitamin D levels may be at higher risk for type 2 diabetes, a new study shows....Obese children were more than three times more likely than non-obese children to be vitamin D deficient, and both obesity and low vitamin D levels were associated with higher degrees of insulin resistance." 

This quote is from an article I read this morning: "Low Vitamin D May Raise Diabetes Risk in Kids," by Salynn Boyles.

Another finding from the newly published study disturbed me, "Obese children were also more likely than non-obese children to skip breakfast and drink more soda and juice, suggesting that these lifestyle factors may contribute to lower vitamin D levels, the researchers noted." 

I write frequently about the importance of not skipping meals, ESPECIALLY breakfast.  This study, published in the latest issue of The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, makes me stop and think about whether every child whose lives we each touch starts their day with a good breakfast.  Given the current economy and high unemployment rates, it is to the point now where almost anything kids eat for breakfast is better than NOTHING for breakfast. 

In a recent program I did for middle school kids in Indian River County, Florida, only one child had breakfast that day.  ONLY ONE CHILD OUT OF 12!!!  Why?  Is it because of the food insecurity crisis affecting families where parents of young children are unemployed or underemployed?  Is it because of the embarassment and shame that prevents families from applying for the free and reduced meal programs at their child's school?  With the rising prices of food due and fuel, many families are forced to make choices which are affecting their children's (and their own) health. 

One of my jobs is to raise awareness about the root causes for the childhood obesity epidemic in America. The journal article referenced above shines a spotlight on a topic I have long been following. 

I will be writing more on the relationship between low vitamin D levels, obesity, and diabetes in future blogs.  Stay tuned. 

Growing Healthy Kids is a movement to educate adults, school administrators, and policy makers about the root causes of obesity so we can prevent obesity-related diseases, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, in America's kids.  Growing Healthy Kids, Inc. creates solutions which improve the health - and lives - of America's kids, one child and one garden at a time.  It is my belief that our society will be judged in the future by how well we protect our children. 

Gracefully yours,
Nancy L. Heinrich, MPH
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids