In 2010, an act to eliminate poverty in Canada was introduced into the House of Commons.
What a difference over two decades can make.
At least one in nine children in this country live in poverty, while one in every four children in First Nations’ grow up in it.
Today, health ministers from across Canada collectively announced that we must wait until November 2011 to find out what they intend to do about childhood obesity. What they fail to note, is that it is one of poverty’s heaviest problems.
But don’t worry. The initiative includes a “Web site” offering a faux “national summit.” Then a report and recommendations based on the information gathered through the national dialogue will be released in the fall.
All initiatives will be calorie-free, but surely laden in fatty expenses full of empty calories.
This problem isn’t new and should not have to await action, since inaction is indubitably what makes it grow, both literally and figuratively.
We do not need commissioned reports, ongoing analysis, and drawn out debate. To put it nicely, we need the government to take its talking heads out of its upper classes.
In North America, obesity is fast becoming the disease of the poor – and a pandemic.
As food prices inflate, so do the waist sizes of many children living in poverty.
And when mushy tomatoes cost $3.49 per pound, and green peppers - the least desirable of all bell peppers - cost $3.99 per pound, a sludgy Quarter Pounder suddenly appears cheap.
Most of us know that a sedentary lifestyle, along with too many calories results in weight gain. And, of course, there are rich kids who are indeed fat.
But, many studies have shown that childhood obesity is inversely related to low socio-economic status.
And the lure of cheap foods is obviously not the only factor.
Poorer parents are often heavier than richer ones, and it is by their example that kids learn. Also, children of lower socio-economic standing cannot afford to enroll in sport or other kinds of exercise programs.
Aside from the fact that poorer kids are at greater risk for injury, teenage pregnancy, as well as emotional and behavioural problems, children living in poverty are 18 times more likely to be victims of sexual abuse, 22 times more likely to be the victims of physical maltreatment, and 56 times more likely to suffer from educational neglect.
With the rising numbers in childhood obesity, come rising numbers in childhood Type 2 diabetes – the diabetes formerly found only in adulthood - and of course, adult obesity.
Alongside these rising numbers, come government cutbacks in education and much needed children’s programs.
In destitute countries, the poorer the family, the skinnier the child, but the richer the nation, the fatter the poor. Canada and the United States are shining – and growing – examples of this.
So, while the federal government sits back and chews the fat over what to do about the alarming rise in childhood obesity, hopefully Canada will chew on this:
The same way rich kids’ wealth cannot be attributed to their own livelihoods, neither can the means of poor kids. The term “childhood” poverty is a euphemism for poverty – poverty to which children are unfortunately subjected and subjugated.
If the government cares so much to eradicate obesity, it must eradicate what is at its core. And at its core are the government’s constant promises, resolutions and acts to eliminate poverty.
Because in the end, the government only acts like it cares, and doesn’t act by what it says.