AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) — Mayor Hardie Davis is in Washington, D.C., for the National Mayors Conference, where he was awarded a new grant targeting childhood obesity.
The grant will be a partnership between the city, The Medical College of Georgia, The Children’s Hospital of Georgia, and Augusta Partnership for Children.
“What I would love to see those funds go towards, is helping to invest in physical activity in kids,” said Sarah Tankersley.
Sarah Tankersley is a pediatric dietitian at CHOG. She sees firsthand the problems the come from childhood obesity. A new, $120,000 grant will help along with a new city-wide initiative called “Augusta Fit Families.” Tankersley says the rise in overweight kids is partially due to “food deserts.”
“They’re forced to shop at convenience stores to get their groceries, which may not always be the healthiest foods,” explained Tankersley. “They are eating these nutrient-dense foods that they can get access to with ease.”
She says while obesity rates in kids are going down, the number of overweight kids is still going up. She believes school systems cutting back on physical activities to meet specific criteria is one factor.
“They have to cut back on recess or gym time, so not every kid is getting those activities as much anymore,” said Tankersley. “If you’re no longer getting that in school, it’s harder for them to get it at home.”
Another reason is funding for healthy school lunches is potentially being cut. Tankersley says now; school menus try to meet guidelines to be a healthy option.
“It’s hard to make those foods and hit those different guidelines, said Tankersley. “Some schools excel at that, while some schools do not. Then, the kids are thinking this is what should be eating because this is what the school serves me.”
The grant is the first step to tackle this nation-wide problem. The pediatric dietitian says it’s up to parents to steer their kids in the right direction.
“Physical activity is like homework for kids,” explained Tankersley. “Not everybody wants to be physically active, but kids need to do their homework, and they need to be active.”
Obesity is a serious health problem that can lead to diabetes and other diseases. Tankersley adds kids are more at risk if their parents are obese. That $120,000 grant is from the American Beverage Foundation.