Study: Chicago kids more obese than others in U.S.

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March 16, 2010 3:24:02 PM PDT
The percentage of overweight children ages 3-to-7 has dropped-- but overall Chicago still has work to do to curb obesity rates among its young people. Childhood obesity has been a tough problem to tackle for years and has grabbed the attention of everyone from pediatricians to first lady Michelle Obama, who launched a campaign to end childhood obesity last month.

In Chicago, the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children, CLOCC, released a study that has both hopeful and troubling results.

The rate of obesity of children entering kindergarten fell from 24% in 2003 to 22% in 2008--which is a difference of 700 kids. However, once they reach the sixth grade, 28% of children are obese. Overall, Chicago kids are more obese than children nationally.

"We're encouraged and feel that the work we're doing as a city is making a difference but we know we have a lot of work ahead of us," said Dr. Adam Becker, CLOCC.

CLOCC focuses on encouraging kids to engage in sports and be more physically active, as well as educates them and their families about healthy food choices. Those food choices can be difficult in lower economic neighborhoods where there is little access to healthy, affordable food.

"We see families where children are struggling. Parents may not have enough food to provide their children with 3 meals a day. And as a result, children are overweight," said Kate Maehr, Greater Chicago Food Depository.

Maehr said the food depository gives kids access to healthy foods through a Nourish for Knowledge program that supplements thousands of Chicago public school kids each week with healthy snacks and fresh produce.

CLOCC says it's not known exactly what has caused the drop in kindergarten obesity and it seems to be unique to Chicago. Obesity rates in other cities have leveled off, but have not dropped.