An Enlightening Story About Extreme Childhood Obesity: When It’s Not Just Parenting
Yesterday, after I blogged about using foster care as an intervention of last resort for extreme childhood obesity, I spent the afternoon in a juvenile court. I was working with a judge and clinicians to help develop a platform for making family-centered interventions available for teens who are in need of services for a variety of issues (typically delinquency and substance use). We ended up talking about the obesity debate – and I heard a story that was an eye opener. Here it is.
There was a child who was placed in foster care because of extreme obesity and the parents’ lack of compliance with medical recommendations. During the time in foster care, the child lost 60 pounds. He was then reunited with his parents. The parents were working with a nutritionist and made lots of changes to the child’s diet. Even though they had limited resources, they found ways to purchase fresh foods and made healthy meals at home, all under the guidance of the nutritionist.
Despite this, the child started to slowly gain back weight, and after a few months, had put back on 30 pounds (half of the weight that he lost in foster care). Everyone – including the nutritionist – was baffled. Then someone finally figured it out.
The cause? The meals provided by his school. Yep, it was primarily the school lunches that were putting the weight back on.
So in this one case, the foster care model (which I don’t favor) actually did work, and in-home intervention (which I do favor) actually did work – but these accomplishments were undermined by the school system.
If we trust schools to educate our children, shouldn’t we trust them to also feed them properly? I’ll state the obvious – the obesity epidemic in this country is not just about parenting.
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