Waging a Battle against Obesity – Young Leaders vs. Corporate Interests

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August 23, 2011; Source: New York Times | From Arizona to Oregon, Maine to Mississippi, a new kind of solider is on the streets. Backed by $2 million in private funding, motivated young leaders are waging a battle against obesity and food ignorance in communities nationwide. Concurrently, big food corporations and farmers have just launched a $30 million campaign to show “their commitment to providing healthy choices.”

The 50 FoodCorps members, most in their 20s, are working at 41 sites in 10 states with high rates of childhood obesity or limited access to healthful food. Curt Ellis, co-creator of the documentary film “King Corn,” is leading the effort, which is part of the federal AmeriCorps program. It has been funded by W.K. Kellogg Foundation and individual donors.

The initiative, officially started last week, generated a lot of interest from communities and potential FoodCorps members. Over 100 local groups in 31 states submitted proposals for local projects and more than 1,200 people applied for one of the 50 FoodCorps positions that pay a stipend of $15,000 per year. For a projected cost of less than $2 million, this program will aim to reduce the $147 billion it costs the nation to deal with obesity and the eating habits of young people.

At the same time however, a group of corporate agricultural businesses and farms will be spending fifteen times as much —$30 million—on a public relations campaign to show that they are “committed to provide healthy choices.” Unfortunately these agribusiness concerns have done just the opposite, producing junk food that has helped triple childhood obesity in the last 30 years.

So we have a corporate Goliath pushing junk food versus a group of young motivated leaders passionate about farms, food and kids. To me, the really good news is that as we read this, we have FoodCorps members spreading the message.—Nancy Knoche