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The Bare Bones

 

 

If your childhood obesity work ever brings you to Atlanta, chances are you will run into John Bare, the vice president of sports philanthropy for the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation. The foundation (whose namesake is the owner of the Atlanta Falcons and the cofounder of the Home Depot) works on a slew of community initiatives in the ATL, including childhood obesity. We got to Bare to bare his soul (ha!) in the Q&A below.
 
Name: John Bare
Job Title: Vice President, The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation
 
1. You spent a long time as a reporter before entering this field. What was your favorite story you ever reported on?|
 
I worked with Cleveland Plain Dealer reporters on an investigation of organ-transplant centers. The takeaway: If you or a loved one must put your name on waiting list at a transplant center, check out the data on survival rates. They vary quite a bit from center to center.
 
2. How did you come to work on childhood obesity? What keeps you motivated to work on this issue?

Improving childhood fitness is a passion for Mr. Blank and his family. In 2005, through our Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation, we began investing in approaches to increase the time Georgia kids spend in physical activity. Two years ago we added investments that increase access to healthy, affordable food.
 
The motivation is simple: We have an obligation to divert children from a path toward preventable diabetes, heart disease, cancer and early death. Our country has responded to previous crises affecting kids – ranging from bacterial infection to polio to hurricanes – and childhood obesity requires the same urgency and commitment.
 
3. What do you think are the biggest steps that must be taken to reverse childhood obesity?

The biggest challenge is to change the behavior of adults who teach children, feed children, care for children, plan and build their neighborhoods, and supervise their out-of-school time programs. Kids are hard-wired to move. It is the adults who erect barriers and suppress movement, whether through using screen time as a babysitter or by only letting the best athletes participate. Dr. John Ratey’s work confirms that physical movement builds new brain cells and repairs old ones, yet too many adults defined good behavior as sitting perfectly still, as if kids were statuary. Good behavior is moving, playing, growing those brain cells. It’s the same with food. Again and again, Farm to School programs demonstrate that kids will increase consumption of fruit and vegetables. Yet many school officials persist with a Tater Tot and chicken strip menu. The CDC has it right. We have to change the environmental factors. Thanks to Georgia OrganicsTruly Living Well, the SHAPE Partnership and others, we’re starting to see these changes in Georgia.
 
4. How do you stay in shape? What tips do you have for others looking to get fit?

The old-school approach works. Eat more fresh vegetables. Move more. I’ve added in two new twists this year. First, I got rid of my office chair and moved to a standing desk arrangement. I had been tinkering with a new setup when I read that sitting is the “most dangerous thing you’ll do all day.” That did it. No more hours of sitting at a desk. Second, Tricia Sterland from Polar USA introduced us to a new activity meter for kids, Polar Active, that tracks time spent in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. We are using the devices to help Atlanta kids monitor their physical activity, so I started wearing one. The cold, hard data were revelatory. I had been deluding myself about how much daily activity I was getting. Now I know, down to the minute, how much activity I am logging throughout the day – and how much more I need before shutting down for the night.
 
5. On a lighter note, working with a NFL team must be a ton of fun. Do you have a favorite memory, or a favorite game you’ve seen in person?

Two highlights. First, Kendyl Moss does an incredible job mobilizing Falcons players and cheerleaders for community projects. In December 2010, Kendyl organized a huge event at the Georgia Dome, with Falcons players and cheerleaders working out with nearly 3,000 kids. All together, the Falcons set the Guinness World Record for the Largest Virtual P.E. Class. One year later, we still have the record. Second, we have been blessed to work with Warrick Dunn, first as a Falcons player and now as part of the Falcons ownership group. Through his Homes for the Holidays program, Warrick has helped more than 100 single parents purchase homes in Atlanta, Baton Rouge, Tampa and Tallahassee. Warrick is a leader and role model in sports philanthropy, and we are blessed to work alongside him.
 
Interested in taking part in a Q&A for The Inside Track? Email Elizabeth@preventobesity.net.