Thumbs up and down

Mar. 02, 2014 @ 05:00 AM

THUMBS UP: The falling childhood obesity rate

A federal study published this week said the obesity rate among preschool-aged children has dropped nearly 40 percent in the last 10 years.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, didn’t point to specific reasons for the decline for those ages 2 to 5, but speculated that more and more childcare centers are getting children to engage in more exercise. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also cites a decline in the consumption of sugary drinks by young people in general as a reason for the positive change.

It’s worth noting, though, that the change in the rate among older children — those ages 6 to 11 — didn’t decline as significantly. It was a small drop, from 18.8 percent to 17.7 percent. But any decline is good.

The “SAD” diet — otherwise known as the Standard American Diet — with its staples of fast and processed food, copious amounts of bad carbohydrates and loaded with sugar — is catching on in other countries and still alive and unwell here. Awareness of the benefits of eating healthier is growing, although the practice of that art needs better execution.

Although only 8.4 percent of children aged 2 to 5 are considered obese, the rate for us older Americans is significantly higher: in the past decade, the obesity rate for adults has grown slightly, from 32.2 percent to 34.9 percent. To tip the scales in the other direction, we need to adopt more of the habits of our youngest children: more playing and less bad food.

THUMBS DOWN: Homelessness

Family of Promise of Lee County celebrated its second anniversary a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving, but the local nonprofit is still working hard to raise awareness and cash for its operation. It’s using the annual “Box City” event — scheduled for May 3 at the campus of Southern Lee High School — to do so.

Partnering with local churches, Family Promise works to provide temporary housing (typically in classrooms in churches) and food (provided by churches) for families who qualify. In addition, Family Promise serves as an advocate for families by helping them regain their self-sufficiency during their involvement with the program, even offering parenting and financial education classes.

You might remember that Box City gives you the chance to spend the night in a cardboard box — literally.

Family Promise Board of Directors President Cornelia Olive told The Herald this week that while many people enjoy this annual event, it can be a challenging experience.

“It is brutal, as far as being out all night and being in a box,” she said. “But the excitement is in the decorations some people do. … It’s amazing because they fix [the boxes] like condos and bunch them together.”

Olive was referring to the fact that many participants spend the first portion of the evening decorating their boxes, attempting to make them home.

Participants can purchase one cardboard box for $75, two boxes for $100 or three for $150. Register by calling (919) 718-1540 or by emailing

THUMBS UP: Contested races

Over the last decade or so, the trend of seeing more than one or two uncontested races in local elections has mostly disappeared. Whether it’s dissatisfaction with sitting office-holders, more engaged political parties (or both — there’s an obvious correlation there), it’s good to see voters have choices on Election Day.

This election year, voters in Lee County will have plenty of choices: other than the re-election campaigns of Robert Reives Sr. on the county’s board of commissioners and Susie Thomas for Clerk of Court, November’s general election ballot will require work and choice on the part of the voter. We’ll have an active primary season (including a Democratic primary for the county’s board of education race and the commissioners’ District 4 seat) ending in May before the hectic run-up to November, featuring six candidates for three board of education seats and a whole lot more.

To the candidates who filed: well done. To the candidates and the voters: it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to work.