Childhood obesity is a nationwide epidemic, but the rates of obesity for the target population of inner-city Hispanics and African-Americans are 10% higher than the national average. In 2008, LA County Department of Public Health found that nearly 30% of children in South LA were obese compared to 23% of all children in LA County. Obesity in children can have negative effects on school performance by reducing self-esteem and self-confidence. Obesity also contributes to health conditions such as depression, Type II diabetes, and undiagnosed sleep disorders that result in lower daytime energy levels.
According to the California Department of Education, over 74% of our youth are not physically fit. Only 12% of LA Unified School District ninth-graders were considered fit, followed by 16% seventh-graders. Moreover, LA County had eight of the nine State Assembly Districts with the highest percentage of overweight kids.
The SOSMentor ShapeUp Program helps to address childhood obesity in LA County's inner-city schools through a nutrition education and mentoring program. The program uses a tiered mentoring approach whereby adult volunteers are trained as mentors to high school students. Following, with support from the adult mentors and a Registered Dietitian, the students participate in after-school nutrition education training sessions to become mentors themselves to elementary students. And lastly, the trained high school student mentors help facilitate nutrition education workshops to elementary students. All students acquire valuable nutrition knowledge and develop leadership skills that help to empower them to make healthier lifestyle choices and pursue brighter futures.