We are facing a childhood nutrition crisis in Los Angeles County. More than 35% of children and adolescents in the county are overweight or obese, according to a 2015 report by UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.*
The prevalence of overweight and obesity is nearly twice as high among children in low-income households (41%) versus higher-income households (21%), and more than double among Latino and African American students (45%) versus white students (21%).
Children who are overweight or obese possess a higher risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and high cholesterol, as well as social, emotional and academic struggles.
Several behavioral and environmental factors contribute to the high prevalence of childhood obesity, socioeconomic and racial/ethnic disparities. Nearly 65% of California children ages 12-17 consume one or more sugar-sweetened beverages a day, and about 44% eat fast food two or more times a week.
Children in lower-income neighborhoods often have limited access to affordable healthy food, recreational opportunities and safe outdoor spaces for physical activity. Language barriers often prevent parents and their children from acquiring the nutrition knowledge they need to be healthy.
* Wolstein J, Babey SH, Diamant AL. Obesity in California. Los Angeles, CA: UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, 2015.
SOSMentor evaluates our programs by administering pre and post Nutrition Knowledge Tests and Health Behavior Surveys. We also use Video Voice Mapping, an innovative digital strategy that empowers students to identify and voice school-wide needs and their creative solutions for environmental change in their schools.
Our programs have proven successful in increasing students’ nutrition knowledge and improving lifestyle habits. Recent evaluation results found a:
- 52% increase in the overall number of students who exercise or play a sport for at least 60 minutes more than 6 times a week
- 21% average increase on the Nutrition Knowledge Test
- 97% increase in students who eat fruits and vegetables as snacks 4 or more times a week
- 73% decrease in students who drink fruit drinks, sports drinks or punch 4 or more times a week
- 138% increase in students who use the nutrition facts label when shopping
- 50% increase in students who help prepare meals at home, and
- 100% increase in overall number of students who drink 8 or more glasses of water a day
- 80% participation rate in environmental change projects such as starting a school garden, fundraising for installation of hydration stations, and school-wide health advocacy activities