Commentary: So Let’s Tackle Childhood Obesity

On Sunday I wrote, “Mayor Heads in Right Direction on Healthy Children.”  That followed up my piece from just before Thanksgiving, “Should Council Pass Ordinance Addressing Sugary Beverages?” Between the two articles, we drew over 225 comments and a stunning 9000 unique views.

So I found some of the comments this week illuminating. One person writes: “It sounds to me like a more productive avenue to pursue is improving school meals.  That is where the kids are eating every weekday for sure.”

Another writes, “This proposed ordinance is simply a ‘do nothing’ proposition that is designed to make certain people feel good about advocating for children’s health, without doing anything productive to actually improve children’s health. It is a complete waste of time and money and will have absolutely no impact on the health of the children in our community.”

Finally, one writes, “As I said a week or two ago, this is not a local issue.  Public Health is under the purview of the County…”

So let me start by making a little admission here—I’m not wedded to this proposal. Dan Wolk put forth a series of potential initiatives, and I think he is raising a critical issue that we should be paying more attention to. So I ran with it. I think my title on Sunday is exactly accurate: “Mayor heads in right direction.”

With that being said, let me lay out a few points that I think we need to think about.

First, I totally and completely disagree with the poster who said this is not a local issue.   These kids live in our community. They go to our schools. They utilize city services. This is our problem. Has the county done much to address these issues, in my view, in the last ten years? Not from what I’ve seen.

Can we tackle this issue alone? Absolutely not. We need to work with the county and our schools and really our state, as I’ll explain shortly. But it has to start somewhere and I’m grateful that Dan Wolk has started this discussion and I’m happy to throw fuel on the fire.

So now I want to address the point that this is a “do nothing” proposition – well, instead of dismissing it, let’s make it do something.

Along those lines, let us start with improving school meals. When I raised my concerns about the diet my nephew was eating in his Title I breakfasts, I got some sympathetic ears, but no action from the school district, whether it be a school board member or administration.

We put parcel tax money into improving school lunches, now we need to do the same thing with breakfasts. Part of the problem, as one poster noted, is that “the politics surrounding school parcel taxes has been to try to fund programs broadly so that they don’t specifically favor one demographic subset of the student population.”

He states that school breakfasts “are only available to students participating in the free/reduced lunch program, and when there is a high enough number of such students at a school site.”

This is a school issue that the school board needs to address, but why can’t we all work together to make sure that low income kids are at least getting two healthy and low sugar meals a day?

We need to do more.

If everyone who reads this post could pledge just $10 per month, we would meet all financial goals for 2015 and the Vanguard would be fully fiscally viable

A letter to the local paper argued, “It is the parents’ responsibility to make the beverage decision for their children, whether the parent orders or allows the child to order.”

But I think a lot of parents do a poor job here and we need to figure out ways to help. But, interestingly enough, the writer continues, “The City Council may not know that these items are allowed to be purchased with food stamps, the EBT cards. Even candy and gum can be purchased with the cards. The council’s time would be better spent ‘educating’ the legislators who support the food stamp program to amend the list of allowable items, removing all ‘junk food’ from that list.”

They continue, “I have no problem with the food stamp program. I do have a problem with the ‘junk food’ part—candy, gum, cupcakes, cookies, sugar-coated cereals, etc.”

I completely agree—so let us fix it. We already ban the sale of alcohol through EBT cards, why not pass laws to make sure that the only food that can be purchased through EBT cards is “healthy”? Seems reasonable. Why not require people, as a condition of receiving benefits, to take a course every six months on proper nutrition for themselves and their kids?

You think people won’t take those classes? People wait around the county building all day to be served—they’ll take the classes and, if not, it frees up those funds for someone who will.

If only we knew people in the legislature who might push for those kinds of changes.

There is a strong link between low-income people and obesity. Part of it is education, but another factor is cost. As one study showed, “When available, healthy food is often more expensive, whereas refined grains, added sugars, and fats are generally inexpensive…” Moreover, “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.”

And, of course, fast-food is readily available to low-income people and community. “These restaurants serve many energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods at relatively low prices.  Fast food consumption is associated with a diet high in calories and low in nutrients, and frequent consumption may lead to weight gain.” (LINK).

There was a fascinating article in PublicCEO about a clinic that is finding ways to help families of overweight kids.

Leticia Ibarra writes, “One major problem in dealing with childhood obesity is that many parents see it as something their children will outgrow—not a major health concern that requires treatment. The clinic used to take this approach, too. We told parents and children to eat healthy and exercise, and to come back next year for a physical exam. This method didn’t work. Most kids don’t grow out of being overweight or obese and many parents don’t know how to help them make healthy choices around food and exercise.”

So in 2011, they “saw an opportunity to expand our work and join forces with other agencies in the region to come up with a new strategy for controlling obesity. One focus of our work is to try to identify obesity problems much earlier in children’s lives, and monitor the problem more closely over time.”

They applied for a four-year research grant from the Childhood Obesity Research Demonstration (or CORD) study of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The grant is “part of the Affordable Care Act and aims to tackle childhood obesity in impoverished communities.”

She writes, “The family wellness program engages the entire family in learning to make healthy choices. Three to four times a year, the overweight or obese child visits the clinic to see a clinician for a weight management and wellness exam. A patient care coordinator also works with the family to connect them with community resources—everything from recreation programs to food stamps.”

Ms. Ibarra described one family they worked with, who had an 11-year-old daughter who was struggling with her weight. She writes, “This year, the 11-year-old girl’s body mass index went down from the 98th percentile to the 95th, a small step in the right direction. Major weight loss takes time, and the Padillas have made real progress by changing their behavior. The family now eats more fruits and vegetables, drinks more water, goes to sleep earlier, and includes more physical activities in their daily routine. The child’s weight is still monitored by a clinician and the family is welcome to attend any physical activity and wellness workshops.”

But there is more: “But it’s not just families that need to commit to change. In many cases, social service agencies, including those of us working in the project, also need to model better behavior, like serving healthy food in public meetings. As part of Our Choice/Nuestra Opción, experts conducted training with the staff of clinics, childcare facilities, schools, recreation agencies, and restaurants. We also launched a public outreach campaign focused on healthy behaviors, like drinking water instead of sugary drinks, getting enough sleep and physical activity, and eating more fruits and vegetables.”

She concludes that there is no magic bullet, and that tackling this problem “means making a long-term commitment—and understanding that change won’t happen overnight. This is as true for families as it is for all of us.”

So I am grateful to Dan Wolk for getting the conversation started, and I will watch with interest as to whether the local agencies start to really tackle these problems.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. South of Davis

    David wrote:

    > First, I totally and completely disagree with the poster

    > who said this is not a local issue. 

    Should a city with bad roads, an under funded pension that needs to close for weeks at a time to “save money” really be worried about how many Cokes a kid in West Davis drinks every year?

    If this is a “local issue” I’m wondering if David would be OK if Davis bans Snicker bars and Woodland bans M&Ms as each city in the state does their own little (to quote a previous poster) “do nothing’ proposition that is designed to make certain people feel good about advocating for children’s health, without doing anything productive to actually improve children’s health”?

    Mos kids learn bad eating habits at home and I’m wondering if David thinks that a change to the foster kids program that only pays foster parents that have a BMI under 25 is a good idea?

    1. Davis Progressive

      you’re asking the wrong question.  the question you should ask is: should a community do what it can to help it’s most vulnerable children?

      and second, is there anything that would prevent the city from dealing with both roads and childhood obesity?  the staffers working on the two wouldn’t even be the same people.

      1. hpierce

        Ok, Tia didn’t know, when asked, and you seem to… what City staffers would be working on childhood obesity issues?  If not current staff positions, what positions would you eliminate to keep the City ‘payroll cap’ at current levels?

      2. South of Davis

        DP wrote:

        > should a community do what it can to help it’s most

        > vulnerable children?

        I make my kids eat a lot of vegetables and ride their bikes, other parents make their eat tofu and do yoga while other parents let their kids eat happy meals and play video games.  Should the “community” take the kids from the parents that give their kids happy meals and let them play video games (or just ban happy meals and video games within the city limits)…

  2. Alan Miller

    I fully agree with the idea of mandating healthy choices in schools, from K through dorms.  I fully agree with the idea of education (understand health risks) and information (food content).  I also believe the only true cure will be when the whole of our society stops celebrating food excess as socially acceptable behavior.

    Bringing all of one’s excess Halloween candy into the office should be viewed as slow homicide towards one’s office mates, and those who grab a handful of candy should be shamed into retreat.  I exaggerate for the point of course, but a society that accepts “Oh candy!  Mmmmm!  Hahahahaha!” as acceptable behavior despite the health consequences is not a well society, and those same indulgers are parents who pass that on to their children as OK.  I say this as someone, like so many of us, who struggles at times with quality and quantity of what goes in the gullet.

    A local politician using their charisma to expand children’s health awareness is welcome.  City ordinance is not.  The function of city government should be simple and specific to issues unique to the city.  This is a local issue as much as gasoline is a local issue because we drive in Davis.  This affects everyone in society, and policy should be at the state level, and limited to what government, questionably, might do OK with:  education, information and, in public institutions, healthy options.  Beyond that, this is a societal issue, and each soul must be strengthened on its own volition.

    The only issue many of us have is with this being a proper issue for our city government; I for one am certain that it is not.

  3. Anon

    Changing what EBT cards can purchase is a political minefield.  You will get certain advocates for low income infuriated that poor folks cannot have a treat if they want.  A good article on the controversy can be read at:

    From USDA:

    “Junk Food” & Luxury Items
    The Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 (the Act) defines eligible food as any food or food product for home consumption and also includes seeds and plants which produce food for consumption by SNAP households. The Act precludes the following items from being purchased with SNAP benefits:  alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, hot food and any food sold for on-premises consumption. Nonfood items such as pet foods, soaps, paper products, medicines and vitamins, household supplies, grooming items, and cosmetics, also are ineligible for purchase with SNAP benefits.

    Soft drinks, candy, cookies, snack crackers, and ice cream are food items and are therefore eligible items
    Seafood, steak, and bakery cakes are also food items and are therefore eligible items

    Since the current definition of food is a specific part of the Act, any change to this definition would require action by a member of Congress. Several times in the history of SNAP, Congress had considered placing limits on the types of food that could be purchased with program benefits. However, they concluded that designating foods as luxury or non-nutritious would be administratively costly and burdensome. Further detailed information about the challenges of restricting the use of SNAP benefits can be found here:

    1. Davis Progressive

      why would it be a political minefield?  you just have to frame the issue in terms of health – i would even couple it with an increase in funding.

        1. Davis Progressive

          regardless of whether it is – most people who use ebt cards will not attempt to turn them into cash and therefore restricting their usage will accomplish much of its intended purpose.

    2. TrueBlueDevil

      We already do (did?) this with the WIC (women and infant children) program, which was very successful. With the WIC coupons a recent mother could only buy specific items: healthy cereal, milk, juice, and a few other items. This was what they had decades ago, but I’m told it is still in effect.

  4. Anon

    Based on the tone of this article, it sounds like the author is finally realizing that it is fine to start the conversation about improving children’s healthy eating, but how to go about it is the question.  And school lunches would be the FIRST place to start, rather than a do-nothing ordinance that will take up too much staff time and will not make a dent in the problem.  Especially because our school parcel taxes are supposedly used to put $70,000 a year towards providing healthy lunches that are apparently not so healthy from what has been said in this blog, and ought to be going towards cleaning up school breakfasts as well.

    1. Tia Will


      You keep repeating that this is a do nothing ordinance and yet offer no evidence that this is true.

      I have cited two pieces of evidence , the smoking model, which  started very much on the local level in Davis if hpierce’s account is accurate, and the acceptance of financial planners that an opt out benefits plan as opposed to an opt in is a strong factor influencing the behavior of individuals.  I believe strongly that the same principles would apply in beverage selection.

      I would truly like to see the evidence that leads you to believe that it would have no effect.

      i do not believe that your oft repeated assertion based on your unsupported opinion alone makes for a strong argument, just as my opinion alone would not.



      1. South of Davis

        Tia wrote:

        > You keep repeating that this is a do nothing ordinance

        > and yet offer no evidence that this is true.

        So after yesterday posting about a fake group of children that ” gets soda (or its equivalent) three times a day” at restaurants without offering any evidence that her statement is true (or admitting she made it up) Tia asks Anon to “prove a negative”.  Before the city spends tax dollars on a “feel good” measure wouldn’t it be a better idea for the city (or Tia) to “offer evidence it would work”…


        1. Tia Will

          South of Davis

          1. I trust you either did not read, or chose to ignore my clarification of my use of the word group.

          2. I believe that I have posted two bits of evidence that it would work and was quite specific about my examples.  You have not chosen to address either of my examples. If you believe that they do not apply, the objective and more compelling response would be to say why not rather than just pretending I have not cited my reasons.

  5. Mark West

     First, I totally and completely disagree with the poster who said this is not a local issue.   These kids live in our community. They go to our schools. They utilize city services. This is our problem. Has the county done much to address these issues in my view in the last ten years? Not from what I’ve seen.

    There is a big difference between deciding that something is a ‘local issue,’ and determining whether or not it is a ‘City Council’ issue. All of the issues you have raised in this post (and the previous two) are important local issues.  Some of them are extremely critical for the future of our children’s health.  None of them however are appropriately addressed at the level of the City Council. Simply put, the City Council has no role in this subject beyond individual members acting as cheer leaders.  The proposed ordinance therefore is a complete waste of time, and the Mayor is completely out of line in his attempts to make it a priority for the City Council.

    Perhaps if the City Council actually completes the hard work of solving the fiscal mess that the we have created, we will generate sufficient discretionary funds to support appropriate City services to help those who are unable to afford quality food.  We need to clean up the fiscal mess first however, and we won’t do that if we continue to allow or encourage our representatives to divert attention away from the difficult fiscal decisions with these do nothing, feel good proposals.

  6. Rich RifkinWDE 73

    DG: “Along those lines, let us start with improving school meals.”

    Some here seem to say: Leave this up to the parents. Others seem to think the schools or the government needs to provide better food.

    I think the problem is the parents. Especially those who are poorly educated. They have no idea what it is they are doing wrong.

    I would start with nutritional education for all parents of fat kids. Parents first need to be taught that fat kids should not eat any foods with added sugar. It is (in almost all cases) the foremost cause of their kids’ weight problems. If they take away the ice cream, the sodas, the cookies, the sweet teas, the Kool Aid, the pies and so on, these fat kids will feel full from good food and they will have a lot more energy to go outside and play.


    The second thing which parents are doing wrong is not letting kids get out and play on their own. Look around Davis parks and open spaces. There are almost never unsupervised kids just out playing. Many play in organized leagues with parents lording over them. But most of childhood outside of school should be letting kids be kids with other kids without parental interference. It is when kids are out on the tennis courts making up their own rules they get real exercise. Same when they play pick-up soccer or football or roller hockey or they just ride bikes around town. Parents often seem to think these activities will cause their kids to get hurt. But what really hurts kids is sitting around watching videos or playing games on computers.


    1. Davis Progressive

      the article talks about a pilot project and grant which essentially is an educational program for parents of fat kids (though more tastefully presented).

    2. Alan Miller

      “Parents often seem to think these activities will cause their kids to get hurt. But what really hurts kids is sitting around watching videos or playing games on computers.”

      Better to have your child die decades early as an adult of poor health than to take any chance they might be hurt playing like a child in the real world.

      Welcome to the 21st century.

    3. Frankly

      It is very difficult to change the eating habits of an adult.  It has taken years for me to move the needle on some of my friends and my in-laws.  I have had to cook many, many meals and shame and bribe them into trying something they said they did not like (primarily because their mother, who did NOT know how to cook well, turned it into some disgusting mushy thing that the only the dog would like… or they covered it in cheese sauce or let the kids dump on catchup or mayonnaise to make it palatable.  I pay for cooking magazine subscriptions as a recurring Xmas gift for some of my friends and family to get them to expand their food vocabulary and curiosity.  I want to scream every time we are out to dinner, or at a dinner party and one of them says “wow, I didn’t even know I liked (fill in the blank).

      My kids got $20 per month for not eating fast food.  And they would be bribed with money to just taste something that they thought they would not like.  Now they are both foodies like their mom and dad.  We vacation around food and cocktails.

      I care about people being healthy, but I also care about people being food ignorant and missing out on one of the greatest joys most of us get to experience in this short life (other than sex and and good music).

      I don’t admire some things about the French and Italians, but they understand how food is an important part of a good life, and it is meant to be celebrated and experienced in quality, not quantity.   American food culture really sucks.  That is what we should be working on.  Healthy choices will derive from teaching a more sophisticated food culture.

      1. TrueBlueDevil

        I’ve tried the approach of having a youngster (10 years old) try a bite or two, and in exchange the reward is ice cream … but often the parents get in the way of that approach. The kids then don’t have to try what I have, and they get the treat. Ugh.

  7. Robb Davis

    Though some people may not see it this way, the City’s efforts to promote safe cycling and walking (via Safe Routes to School, the vulnerable user clause in the Transportation Element of the GP, supporting bike rodeos and tackling bad biking infrastructure), ARE related to this issue because reducing obesity is about both diet AND exercise.  So, in a real sense the City is already deeply engaged in reducing obesity.

    I am puzzled by the narrative that the City does not have the bandwidth to deal with this.  First Five is doing the heavy lifting so far on this.  A limited amount of staff time does not seem like an onerous commitment to me.  Allow me to reprint a posting from Sunday’s article on this subject.  Please note the societal costs of obesity and diabetes.  I am surprised there is not support for these modest and relatively low cost steps.  Beyond a knee-jerk libertarianism that sees all such attempts as government coercion, I really don’t know what the concern is here.  I would be very happy to see a local group of citizens come to the aid of the City staff to reach out, on behalf of the city, to contact restaurants concerning the ordinance.  Any takers?

    From Sunday:
    Most public health interventions are a series of small steps that add up to a change in behavior and health improvement.  The most effective interventions are those that require little personal behavior modification because behavior change is hard.  So… if you offer a different default on a high sugar content menu item, you open a door to a behavior change without limiting anyone’s choice.  Is it the only solution?  Is it the best solution?  No and no. But, it is part of the solution for reducing obesity and Type II diabetes which cost all of us a tremendous amount. According to The Economist

    Rich countries devote 2-7% of their health spending to the problem (of obesity), and up to 20% if you include treatment of associated diseases, such as diabetes.

    They also note the following (based on a study by McKinsey Global Institute):

    (The study) looks at 74 anti-obesity measures around the world, and judges the cost and impact of the 44 for which there were sufficient data. None alone could do much, it concludes, but all 44 together could mean about a fifth of overweight people achieving a reasonable waistline within five to ten years.
    The interventions range from nudges (making healthy eating choices easier) to shoves (taking poor eating choices away). The most effective would force food producers and restaurants to make servings smaller and limit fatty ingredients. Others are less paternalistic, such as having grocery stores promote healthy products instead of sugary ones. But leaving it to individuals to slim down through dieting and exercise without any such help, MGI concludes, consistently fails. (emphasis added)

    So, I understand (as does The Economist) the distaste some Americans have for “paternalistic” approaches but such approaches can be very effective and they reduce health expenditures.

    1. Don Shor

      I would be very happy to see a local group of citizens come to the aid of the City staff to reach out, on behalf of the city, to contact restaurants concerning the ordinance.

      Generally speaking, I’d suggest approaching stakeholders before proposing legislation.

        1. Don Shor

          What exactly was staff directed to do, then? My understanding is they are already working on a draft ordinance, and developing ideas for outreach. In other words: salaried staff is already using resources on this issue. Not council members. Not volunteers. Staff.

    2. hpierce

      Robb… what City staff would you have the CM assign to this?  What do you see as “limited time”?

      A limited amount of staff time does not seem like an onerous commitment to me. 

      1. Robb Davis

        Don – Here is the language we approved on December 2:

        Direct staff to work with the City Attorney to draft an ordinance addressing sugary beverages in kids’ meals, start outreach to local restaurants about proposed changes and return to Social Services Commission and to Council once a draft ordinance is complete.

        Staff can start reaching out to restaurants now to discuss a possible ordinance.  If volunteers want to help they can contact me and I can see how we might plug them in.  First Five has done research on ordinance language (that was in the packet) so we are not starting from zero.  That reduces staff time.  Outreach can happen at any time before we actually pass an ordinance (which, of course, may or may not happen–all we have done so far is to ask staff to move this forward).

        hpierce – I assumed your question was rhetorical but since you appear to be truly unsure of “who” I will say that this is being directed out of the City  Manager’s office and is taking up so little time to date that staff places it in the category of “using existing staff resources.”

    3. South of Davis

      Robb wrote:

      > So, I understand (as does The Economist) the distaste some

      > Americans have for “paternalistic” approaches but such approaches

      > can be very effective and they reduce health expenditures.

      As I posted in another article on this topic.  As a country we can reduce HEALTH expenditures if we get people to lose weight but we will most likely increase TOTAL expenditures if more people are healthy and live to 95 getting Social Security and Medicare for 30+ years.

      I’m not saying I want to pump poor kids full of Pop Tarts and chocolate milk so they drop dead at 65 before getting a penny from Social Security and Medicare, but let’s not try and fool anyone in to thinking we (as a country) are going to “save money” if more people are healthy and live longer.

      P.S. I read that the average nursing home in America costs more than $50K/year.  With rare exceptions you don’t see fat old people in nursing homes (since they are dead)…

      1. Tia Will

        South of Davis

        i have already provided a rebuttal to your “dying early is less costly” assertion.

        This would certainly be true if everyone just dropped dead at a certain age. But that is not the way it works. It is especially not true in America where we have concentrated our efforts on high tech salvage medicine instead of prevention.

        If we were to place our time, money and energies on prevention instead or rescue, we would have more of our population presenting as one 82 year old woman who did not act, look or move like a day over 70. Her cost to our health care system…..minimal.

        Prevention is the key to health and should always be encouraged as the default.

        1. South of Davis

          Tia wrote:

          > i have already provided a rebuttal to your “dying early

          > is less costly” assertion.

          You did not provide any real “rebuttal” and you can’t since it is not an “assertion” it is a “fact”.

          Sure there are exceptions like a healthy 82 year old woman who has been mailing her Social Security checks back to the government every month for the past 20 years, but since “most” people from 25-65 PAY more in taxes than they get from the Government and “most” people from 65-105 GET more from the Government then they pay in taxpayers would be better off with less people over 65 (I’m not saying we should go “Logan’s Run” but this is a fact not just an assertion).

          If you want to show me something that I am wrong about the government sending more money to older Americans or that overweight people are less likely to become older Americans that would be a “rebuttal”…

    4. Tia Will



      “Any takers ? ”

      i am absolutely in on this idea. I had hesitated to contact the involved restaurants myself for two  reasons.

      1. I do have a day job. But have now completed the end of year additional projects and will have some time freed up to take on a project.

      2. I was concerned about my lack of knowledge about how best to formulate questions and do education and advocacy in the business community.

      If you or Dan  would like to designate a person who could get me up to speed, I would be more than happy to take this on. Any volunteer helpers from those who feel that they know better how to address a serious chronic health problem in the making ?  I am always willing to listen. Perhaps one of you who believes the schools are place to start could take on as active liaison and advocate to the school board while I start with voluntary buy in from the restaurants.

      How about it hpierce and Anon ? Both of you are much more knowledgeable about city functioning than I am.  I would see your positive suggestions and input as much more valuable than just a litany of “that won’t work”.  Join me .

    5. Alan Miller

      ” . . . the City’s efforts to promote safe cycling and walking . . . ARE related to this issue because reducing obesity is about both diet AND exercise.  So, in a real sense the City is already deeply engaged in reducing obesity.”

      And yet, when I bike by a Davis school on an odd weekday off, I find the biggest threat to both I and children on bicycles are the vast majority of parts who drive their kids to school.  Clearly, parents have lost their collective minds, and there is nothing the city government can do about it.

  8. justme

    One problem I have noticed while shopping is this….  If you are on a low income and trying to eat healthy, you almost cant afford the food…  What is best for your low income families?  Top Ramen which is horrible for you at 10 for $1.00 or fresh vegetables that are much higher in cost??  Maybe we need to look at costs for the healthier choices…..  Yolo Food Bank does offer lower costs I believe but has anyone ever gone there?

    1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

      There is no doubt that good food can be too expensive for many lower-income people. Many of the best, healthiest fishes, for example, are too expensive for me, save a rare occasion, and I make a good income. It’s obviously much harder for a single mother on food stamps trying to feed herself and kids.

      Yet, my observation (having lived for many years in the ghetto in West Oakland) is that a lot of bad choices make the problem much worse. Poor people who smoke cigarettes (or smoke even more toxic drugs) always seem to have enough money for those. They seem to have plenty of money for booze. And many of them own a lot of expensive jewelry and clothes and wear their finery out to clubs. Yet they struggle to have enough money to purchase a bunch of kale or a couple avocados or some carrots. Better choices in how many low-income people use the money they have would help them afford better food, if they are actually taught what food they should and should not eat.

      I know a second, compounding problem for some poor people is the distance they need to travel to get to a supermarket. They will sometimes buy bad food at high prices at convenience stores because there are no full service grocery stores nearby. But, save the handicapped and the infirm, a little bit of initiative could solve this problem. I see homeless people in Davis riding cargo bikes all over town picking up recyclables. I don’t see why more able-bodied people who don’t have a supermarket near them don’t copy that model. It would be good exercise, too.

      Ultimately, even if someone (without much money) spends wisely on other items and can reach a market which sells good proteins and produce at a fair price, he has to know what foods are healthy and which are not and then he needs to want to be healthy. You can lead a horse to water, but … I’ve seen, countless times, overweight people with shopping carts full of crud they should not be eating, ever. But it is a free country. They have the full right to do what they want to themselves.

        1. South of Davis

          justme wrote:

          > Unfortunately, a garden is not an option for people

          > living in low income apartments or even trailer parks

          You don’t need 10 acres to have a garden only a few pots on a patio or a bed beside your trailer.

    2. David Greenwald

      That’s why I think we have to alter food programs. One program that we participated in when we became foster parents was WIC – which has very restrictive food requirements and might be a better approach for what EBT is.

  9. Miwok

    Lots of very good ideas and discussion only makes me think of one thing: A few weeks ago, we started talking about “influence” on healthy eating, and went straight for the ordinance. Is it any wonder people hate government? No one has tried anything yet, but passing an unenforceable ordinance will solve everything.

    “Hi we have fat kids” – “oh, let’s influence them to eat better”

    “Well, they have crap for food at school” – “well, an ordinance will solve that”

    What was the $70K for if not to buy food? At the same time, the City is discussing spending $17K to stripe ONE BLOCK in Davis because “people are uncomfortable” riding it. Let’s see, why not take the $17K and feed more kids better food? Because 100 people a day might not feel better? Aren’t there more than 100 kids that will benefit?

    Sorry for the rant, I just had to add some comic relief. Back to the regularly scheduled pontification.

    1. Tia Will


      Is it any wonder people hate government? No one has tried anything yet, but passing an unenforceable ordinance will solve everything.”

      I believe that it is indeed a wonder that people hate government. But I think that the key may lie in your second statement. You do not believe that “no one has tried anything yet” but that could not be further from the truth. I have sat on 3 county advisory boards dealing with health and wellness issues. There have been multiple outreach programs providing education, working on improvement in school food selections, private and public collaborations to encourage more healthy eating practices and increasing exercise.

      Just because you do not know about these efforts does not mean that they do not exist. I suggest looking up Yolo County and checking our the number of programs that are designed to address health and wellness issues. Over the years that I have been involved I have presented to the Board of Supervisors twice on these issues as have many other people who are involved in these issue in a much more direct manner.

      What is hoped is that taking this into the business community will have a more direct effect, just as impacting the business community as hpierce noted with regard to smoking had an effect on beyond what was achieved by just “educating “.

      Now for my comedic contribution. For those of you who do not feel that this is a real issue, or that it is not the responsibility of the city, or that it should be relegated to volunteer efforts, this is my response.

      I do not prioritize the smooth surfaces of our roads as much as I do the health of our children. Since my priorities are not the same as yours, I suggest that everyone who advocates for time and money to be spent on the roads  instead organize a pot hole filling brigade. Some could melt the tar, others could pour it into the pot holes, still others could take on the duty of smoothing it into place. If you all would just do that, there would be plenty of time and money for city staff to work on what I consider more important issues than the well being of our roads and cars, namely public health and well being.

  10. tribeUSA

    How about a public education program (like radio and TV ads) that promote a simple message: No sodas or candies for the kids except on special occassions (e.g. birthdays, weddings, holidays).

    Hammer the message home but repetition; daily ads. Also weekly news stories of adverse health effects of sugary foods on kids (obesity, diabetes, etc), including both statistics and interesting anecdotes.

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