Obesity: A Cultural Challenge

As we all know, obesity and its corresponding health issues (i.e. heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer) are major issues facing most developed countries.

In the process of developing FruitShare’s fundraising program, we came to a conclusion that is perhaps obvious: the obesity problem is a cultural challenge.

To clarify, it seems that the values ingrained in our culture tend to lead toward obesity: think fast food restaurants, instant gratification, and the eat-on-the-run lifestyles many of us lead. This is more than a little paradoxical since as a culture we also idolize thinness: think celebrities and supermodels.

So how do we reconcile these two conflicting ideologies? How do we get healthy as a nation?

To get to our answer, let’s take a look at the problem that got us thinking about the problem in the first place: fundraising. We all remember fundraising for school or a team, whether we participated as students or have children taking part now.

These fundraisers usually involve selling candy, cookie dough, and other junk food. In fact, we did an internet search for “school fundraising ideas,” and the results that came back were largely unhealthy options, from pizza to gourmet popcorn and so on. Completely missing from most lists were fruit fundraisers.

And this is the heart of the problem. When healthy food like fruits and vegetables are completely missing from everyday life, how are children expected to learn about healthy eating?

When groups of people who focus on health – like consumers who buy organic, for example – are far and away the minority, it is no surprise we are facing an obesity problem of such magnitude.

Of course, there are some attempts at moving toward healthy eating as a culture. In November last year, San Francisco passed legislation that banned restaurants from putting free toys in meals that are not below standards for fat, sugar and calorie levels (most obviously affected: McDonald’s Happy Meals).

Now, New York may be following suit, says Organaholic! Organic Food Blog. Whether or not this will prove to be an effective plan, it certainly does make a move toward changing the troubling fact that unhealthy food is often blatantly marketed toward children.

As an article from Time says, “Americans have been brainwashed. We have been conditioned…to prefer high-fat, high-salt, high-sugar concoctions rather than their less exciting, more natural culinary cousins.”

Perhaps using those same cartoons and free toys that have “brainwashed” us could be used to market healthy food to children and start reversing the still-rising rates of obesity on a widespread, cultural level.

To return to our fundraising example: there are alternatives to unhealthy fundraisers, as long as you care to look for them. In fact, the very reason FruitShare has developed our fundraising program is to provide one of these healthy options.

Our fundraisers are perfect for schools, churches, and clubs. Sports teams, especially, should consider raising money in such a way as to encourage lifestyles in which exercise and healthy eating go hand-in-hand.

Make a change in your community today and raise money in a way that also promotes the health of your family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers.

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