When Lindsey Parsons and her colleague Karen Devitt saw problems in the public school food system in Montgomery County, Md., they partnered to create the organization Real Food for Kids – Montgomery. They targeted the junk food being sold in schools, and managed to convince school officials to delay turning on junk food-filled vending machines until a half hour after the school day ends.
What inspired you to start working on childhood obesity?
Nothing makes me sadder than seeing a young child who is overweight and thinking how helpless they are to do anything about it, while the adults around them refuse to make the tough decisions to help them, especially with regard to school food.
How are you helping to reverse childhood obesity?
My colleague Karen Devitt and I have formed an organization called Real Food for Kids – Montgomery that is working to improve the food in the Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland. In particular, we are focusing on the long list of packaged products of minimal nutritional value that are sold a la carte and without the knowledge of most parents in the school system.
What’s your biggest accomplishment so far in helping reduce childhood obesity?
Our biggest accomplishment thus far was to get the school system to delay turning on the worst vending machines (the ones with the candy and sodas) until 30 minutes after the end of the school day. But we hope our School Food Forum: Creating a Vision of Fresh, Real Food in Montgomery County Public Schools on Nov. 2 will be a real catalyst for change in our county. You can find out more about it at http://www.realfoodforkidsmontgomery.org/forum.htm.
Who is your role model in your work?
To be honest, we have been inventing this as we go along.
What healthy snacks did you enjoy growing up? Did you play any sports?
I have to confess that I did not grow up on a healthy diet. I ate big bowls of ice cream twice a day. But something has changed in the genetic makeup of this new generation. They just can’t get away with drinking juice three times a day, eating junk at school and home and maintaining a healthy weight. I always did some type of sports, starting with gymnastics, then swimming, biking, karate and ultimate Frisbee in college. Now I just do aerobics and walk to stay in shape.
Click here to connect with Lindsey Parsons.
Our own Zach Brooks speaks with a Leader each week to get a quick look at why he or she loves working to create healthy environments for kids. Want to take part? Visit Zach’s profile and contact him.