Some Folks Will Surely Get Fat From $14.7 Million Grant to Fight Obesity

It was reported earlier this week that Miami-Dade County will be receiving $14.7 million from the federal government, the money earmarked for fighting obesity. It is part of a  $370 million Obama administration program called "Communities Putting Prevention to Work." Miami-Dade is one of 44 counties, cities, tribes, and other groups that will receive the money (Orange County, the only other Florida area receiving dough, will get $6.6 million for tobacco prevention. Guess they smoke a lot up there). But will the money be wisely spent? Let's put it this way: Can Gabourey Sidibe resist a Snickers bar?

The grant will be divided up between The School Board and Parks and

Recreation Department, the Health Department, the Zoning Department and

the Florida Agricultural Extension Service -- which fall under the

umbrella of the Consortium for a Healthier Miami-Dade, set up in 2003.

Some of the expected expenditures will go towards setting up more

farmers' markets and attempting to get corner food stores in inner-city

neighborhoods to stock healthy fruits and vegetables. Those sound like

worthy goals. New bike and walking paths also seem like good ideas

being mentioned. But money spent for more crossing guards? I understand

the notion that a safer walk is one more parents are apt to allow their

children to take. But unless the kids live right by the perimeter of a

school -- in which case walking isn't going to provide much exercise --

crossing guards won't make much difference for most of the stroll.

More pertinently, it seems that the money is already being diluted

conceptually, before it even gets spent. Why not put the bulk of the

14.7 mil into bringing more nutritious foods into our school

cafeterias, and increasing exercise programs both during and after

school? Getting young people into the habit of eating fresh fruits and

vegetables and enjoying physical activity seems the most direct way of

battling obesity -- both short and long term.

We can only hope those folks in the Consortium are watching Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution

on ABC. In fact, he should be in charge of doling out the millions

instead of them. But he isn't, and unfortunately I've got a queasy

feeling that when the grant money is all spent, and the palms all

greased, the kids won't be any thinner -- and plenty of adults will

have gotten downright fat from the deal.

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