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
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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.