One of our regular activities in the orphan shelter is to discover and develop the children’s talent in singing, dancing, arts/painting, “Got Talent” skills, and some acting knacks, like performing a drama presentation. We introduced this new approach to make our activities more interactive and interesting and get them used to working with the volunteers, mainly in English. The current generation, or the Millennials, as we all know, are keener on innovative and less traditional ways of learning things, particularly on academic subjects.

Seeing this reality, we always design a day program to motivate and interest them as well, something congenial since we have known them for a while already. After giving them a lecture on Sustainable Development Goal 1 or “No Poverty” (SDG 1), which eventually they played in a drama, this time, we moved on to SDG 2 or Zero Hunger Goal. This is no complication but simply common sense. We’ve been through all the basics and intermediate (feeding, face painting, etc) approaches of working together for the past six years, and there’s no regressing back to the primary of things. We are all advanced and enjoying the present, and if there’s one thing every child must learn when leaving the shelter in time, it’s how to manage their food intake, the proper nutrients they need, and live sustainably within his/her own means.

Below is a blog I composed during a social media workshop I participated in a few years ago in Rome, Italy, to support side events tackling global issues on agriculture. It will serve as the main lecture for the children. This article went unpublished for one major reason: I refused to change the title. Enjoy reading!!


Sugar, rice, and everything not nice

Step back, Powerpuff Girls, overstuffed kids are here, but they are not saving the world.

The World Health Organization reported that there is a tenfold increase in childhood obesity from 11 million in 1975 to 124 million in 2016 between ages 5 and 19 years old. Most of these children are from low- and middle-income countries in all population groups. And it’s simply not about income or wealth; the food system has increased accessibility and intensified the marketing of energy-dense but nutrient-poor food almost everywhere globally. So, while we’re still facing the challenge of providing food for all, we have forgotten the importance of properly managing the diets necessary for the youth.

Bubbles, Blossom and Buttercup

The Powerpuff Girls superheroes were created by chance when their father, Professor Utonium, accidentally spilled his “Chemical X” formula while attempting to make a perfect little girl. In contrast, how much Chemical X are we intentionally feeding the youth nowadays that makes them huge yet powerless?

A panel discussion among representatives from the governments of Brazil and Ecuador, as well as the Permanent Representation of Italy to the UN Agencies in Rome, highlighted this global phenomenon and shared some countries’ experiences in tackling childhood obesity.

A 3-tier approach was introduced to prevent obesity involving government policies and interventions, promotion of diets and physical activities, and community-based arrangements to support early child care. This approach, I believe, if not properly sustained, might end up in 4+ tiers when the layers of fat among children grow faster than they can implement their programs.

There are also ways of preventing childhood obesity within a food environment, as mentioned in the session. These include discouraging unhealthy food advertisements and promotions, limiting the sale and serving of junk foods in schools, encouraging healthy eating habits through nutrition literacy, and increasing physical activities. Another way is by imposing more taxes on high-sugar beverages and visible warnings on food labels.

Efforts like this require much collaboration from all concerned and governing bodies. But hopefully, we are not on track to something that will create confusion, similar to the mainstream “Orange is the new black”: We urge them to eat veggies instead of sweets, cheering “Bitter is the new sweet!” We aim to nourish the youth properly, not raise disillusioned little fools.

Regulatory actions are vital and play a huge role in restricting unhealthy food marketing and misleading nutrition labeling and packaging. If we can put disgusting images on a pack of cigarettes showing the consequences of smoking as a fatal warning, we can, perhaps, print a caricature or cartoon of massive tooth loss on candy bars or images of permanent gas on soda bottles. What about depictions of domestic accidents on potato chip bags, boxes of fries, or bakery shop products, like kids falling out of their chairs from being overweight?

Children (6-10) at a fast food vendor’s window, reaching for a plate

Educating the youth on the meaning of adequate and healthy food is very important, too. Teaching them the amount of food they need for every meal, the right time to consume liquids, and when they are full are not the only adequate measures of healthy eating. They need to know about nutritional value. The strategies are not simple. If we are dealing with the situation from a national or global perspective, we need discrete actions that will require leadership, win-win partnerships, availability of data, and monitoring and evaluation. These are some of the measures suggested by the panelists on how they take action to face obesity in their regions.

But how about us as individuals? How can we create solutions within our communities, like for our families, friends, co-workers, or ourselves? We must first live by example. We cannot correct the eating habits of any obese youth if we appear bigger or heavier than them.

Nevertheless, this is the new world where the children are still our future, an unexpectedly heavy future. We must teach them well and show them the dangers of sugar and processed foods. We must take swift action to solve the problem, as we are responsible for raising them, and youth is always searching for a hero.


Image Sources: Powerpuff GirlsKids reaching burger