Childhood obesity up 16 percent nationwide during pandemic

WASHINGTON — A new report shows one in six children and teens are obese nationwide.

Researchers say the COVID-19 pandemic had a big impact on these staggering trends.

Researchers say the legacy of structural racism affecting access to food and healthcare were already contributing factors for childhood obesity.

They say the pandemic just worsened those disparities.

This study from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation shows that about 16 percent of kids between 10 to 17 are obese nationwide.

The childhood obesity rates are the highest among Black, Hispanic, and Native American kids compared to white and Asian children.

The study also shows how economic disparities played a role in these numbers.

The obesity rate for kids in the highest income group was around nine percent compared to 23 percent for kids in the lower income group.

The foundation says while the pandemic impacted obesity rates, there was an increase in some federal food programs.

Researchers say those resources must continue permanently to help bring down these rates in the future.

“How can we ensure that some of the key, for instance, federal nutrition programs, like SNAP, like WIC, like school meals are actually reaching the kids that need them the most? How do we think about expanding access to affordable high quality, early care and education opportunities, states have a big role to play there,” Jamie Bussel, senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The study also recommends universal school meals because researchers say science shows if kids have consistent access to healthy meals, they’ll also see improvements in the classroom.

You can find the full report here.

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