In August when Weight Watchers rolled out weight loss app Kurbo, it released a wave of sharp criticism from health experts, eating disorder specialists and parents alike—and once again shined a spotlight on fighting childhood obesity.
Although Kurbo is certainly extreme, it’s not anything new. Just think about weight loss camps or companies who have started to sell fitness trackers for kids in recent years.
Instead of putting kids on diets, segregating food as “healthy” and “unhealthy,” and encouraging kids to track their steps every day, kids need repeated exposure to healthy foods, and they need to have healthy eating and lifestyle habits modeled for them.
So although Kurbo, fitness trackers, or any other adult weight loss solution that’s re-packaged for kids isn’t the solution, the sad truth is that we are still facing a childhood obesity epidemic.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), obesity affects:
- Nearly 14 percent of children 2- to 5-years-old.
- More than 18 percent of 6 to 11-year olds.
- More than 20 percent of 12 to 19-year-olds.
Of course, childhood obesity is just one part of an overall health epidemic in the U.S. Studies show kids who are overweight are at risk for other conditions including type-2 diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), both of which are on the rise.
Children who are obese also have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including high cholesterol, high blood pressure and problems with blood glucose tolerance. Obesity may also play a role in kids who have asthma, obstructive sleep apnea, joint problems and mental health problems.
In fact, a recent study out of the University of Alabama at Birmingham found teens who consume high levels of sodium and low levels of potassium in fast food and processed foods that are linked to obesity, are more likely to develop symptoms of depression.
Most of the responsibility of preventing childhood obesity starts at home but schools and communities also play a role especially for families struggling with food insecurity.
Fortunately, there are several companies, including many start-ups, and non-profit organizations that are dedicated to fighting childhood obesity. Here are 15.
1. Revolutions Foods
Founded in 2006 by Kristin Groos Richmond and Kirsten Saenz Tobey, two businesswomen and moms, Revolution Foods’ mission is to build lifelong healthy eaters and provide healthy meals to every child who is food insecure.
To date, the company has designed, produced and delivered more than 360-million
kid-inspired, chef-crafted meals to childhood education centers, school districts, charter schools, and community and after-school youth programs in 15 states.
With their community partners, they also offer nutrition curriculum, cooking classes, gardening lessons and other education events.
2. Chef Ann Foundation
If you’re looking to change your child’s school lunch program like I am, the Chef Ann Foundation is an excellent place to start.
Founded in 2009 by Ann Cooper, an internationally recognized author, chef, educator, public speaker, and advocate of healthy food for all children, the Chef Ann Foundation is dedicated to providing fresh, healthy school lunch every day.
With tools, training, resources and funding, the Foundation helps schools create healthier food and redefine lunchroom environments.
3. No Fuss Lunch
Founded in 2012 by Gabriella Wilday, No Fuss Lunch provides kid-centric, healthy school lunches, after-school snacks and meals for summer camps that exceed the National School Lunch Program’s standards.
Their food is made without white sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, nuts, GMO’s or MSG and is safe for kids with food allergies.
For nearly 160 years, the YMCA has made it their mission to strengthen local communities and improve the nation’s health and well-being.
With programs that provide meals to those who struggle with hunger, teach healthy eating, encourage physical activity and healthy lifestyle habits and strengthen families, the YMCA is dedicated to fighting childhood obesity.
5. Sweat Makes Cents
Sweat Makes Cents is a non-profit organization with a particular focus on supporting millennial women who want to find a solution for childhood obesity.
The organization hosts jumping jack challenges, fitness fundraisers and city fitness teams that raise funds for nationwide childhood obesity prevention programs.
Teaching kids how to garden is one of the best ways for them to be exposed to healthy food and learn where real food comes from.
KidsGardening is a national non-profit that offers grants, programs, curriculum, contests, and activities to create opportunities for kids to play, learn and grow through gardening. Approximately 70 % of the teachers who receive their grants say their students have improved attitudes about nutrition. In 2018, KidsGardening reached approximately 920,000 kids.
7. City Blossoms
City Blossoms is a Washington, D.C-based non-profit organization that develops creative, kid-driven green spaces. Their focus is on a combination of gardens, science, art, healthy living, and community building and they work with community-based organizations, neighborhood groups, schools, and learnings centers in the Washington D.C area and across the U.S.
8. Power of Produce (POP) Club
Bringing kids to farmers’ market is a great way to encourage access to healthy food and teach healthy eating habits which can go a long way in fighting childhood obesity.
At Power of Produce (POP) Club at the Oregon City Farmers Market kids get $2 every time they visit the farm to purchase their own fruits and vegetables, and they lean how to plant sunflower seeds, and make salads and jam, for example.
9. Hungry Harvest
Founded in 2014 and featured on Shark Tank, Hungry Harvest rescues “ugly” fruits and vegetables from farmers that would otherwise go to waste and sells them in discounted subscription boxes.
For every Hungry Harvest delivery, they also offer their reduced cost produce to SNAP (food stamps) markets and donate to local organizations whose mission is to solve hunger. To date, they have provided more than 750,000 pounds of produce to SNAP reduced-cost markets, food banks and local nonprofits.
10. Farm to School
The National Farm to School Network is an information, advocacy and networking hub that sources local food to be served in schools, establishes school gardens, and brings food and agriculture education into schools.
DrumFit, a cardio drumming physical education program for schools, is on a mission to teach kids to love cardio fitness for life. The company provides online video content, lesson plans and routines.
12. The Adventures of Super Stretch
The Adventures of Super Stretch app is a children’s yoga program that can be done at home, and in daycares, schools, and after-school programs. Free, iTunes and Google Play.
KaBOOM! is a national non-profit that creates safe, community-based play spaces.
Over the last 20 years they have built or improved more than 17,000 play spaces and in 2018 they built more than 3100 playgrounds. KaBOOM! teams up with funding partners to build safe spaces in one day.
14. My First Workout
Founded by Michelle Mille, a certified personal trainer and mom, My First Workout is designed to connect parents with their children and pull kids away from the technology and sedentary behaviors linked to childhood obesity.
The step-by-step strength and conditioning program is designed for kids 5- to 10- years-old and includes fitness equipment, a video and a poster so parents can feel confident performing the exercises with their kids.
15. Wholesome Wave
Wholesome Wave is a national non-profit that makes healthy food accessible and affordable for families who struggle with food insecurity through two types of programs.
Doubling Snap allows people with SNAP (food stamps) benefits to receive double the value to spend on produce at select farmers’ markets and grocery stores. Through their Produce Prescriptions program, people receive produce vouchers from participating hospitals and clinics to purchase fruits and vegetables. In 2017, Wholesome Wave reached more than 973,000 people.