Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Weighing Budget Cuts Against Latino Childhood Obesity

How might school funding cuts affect efforts to fight the obesity epidemic among Latino children?

That question was the focus of the Latino Childhood Obesity Education Summit, held last week in San Antonio. As reported here in the San Antonio Express News, experts worry that an expected $4 billion in state funding cuts could hurt the ability of Texas school districts to continue programs intended to fight obesity.

Such fitness campaigns often operate with limited or short-term funding, which is especially precarious in these economic times, the article notes.

Although last week’s summit addressed problems in Texas, the obesity epidemic and other food-related issues, such as hunger and food insecurity, affect Latino children and school districts across the country.

According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Leadership for Healthy Communities, Latino children face greater risks of developing diabetes than non-Hispanic children. Some studies also suggest that childhood obesity and lack of physical activity can adversely affect kids’ achievement in school and lower their self-esteem.

As the CDC notes here:  “Health-related factors such as hunger, physical and emotional abuse, and chronic illness can lead to poor school performance. Health-risk behaviors such as …  physical inactivity are consistently linked to academic failure and often affect students’ school attendance, grades, test scores, and ability to pay attention in class.

Look at proposed funding cuts in your state. Do they target obesity awareness or exercise campaigns? Are there at-risk programs in the districts in your region? What are these programs doing to battle obesity among Latino students? Are they in danger of being slashed? Who are the families who would be affected?

Seek out parents and children and talk to them about the difficulty of finding healthy, affordable food and how their diets affect school performance. Try to visit the school cafeterias or spend time in one of the programs offered by schools.

A good place to start your research is the Nutrition in Communities and Schools: What’s at Stake for Latino Children  webinar offered by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) on Tuesday, July 19. MALDEF, which also sponsored the San Antonio summit, plans to produce a 10-page white paper from that event.


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