Florida has the fourth highest obesity rate for youth ages 10 to 17 meaning that 3 out of 10 children are overweight or obese putting them at risk for developing lifelong chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and mental health issues. The obesity crisis costs our nation more than $150 billion annually in healthcare costs and millions more in lost productivity.
Obesity is a child development and academic achievement issue. Obesity prevention is an investment in our children’s ability to learn and grow. Childhood obesity is correlated with poor educational performance and increased risk for bullying and depression. If all kids have the opportunity to grow up at a healthy weight — a lifestyle that includes nutritious food and plenty of time for active play — they are more likely to reach their full potential.
Obesity is an equity issue. Obesity disproportionately affects low-income and rural communities as well as certain racial and ethnic groups, including Blacks, Latinos and Native Americans. Societal inequities contribute to these disparities. For example, in many communities, children have few safe outdoor spaces to play or accessible routes to walk or bike to school. Their neighborhoods may often be food deserts, having small food outlets and fast-food restaurants that sell and advertise unhealthy food and beverages, but lacking those with fresh and healthy foods at affordable prices. Thus, addressing the obesity epidemic is also a fight for health equity.
In the last several years, the Foundation has installed safe places to play - mini-pitches and community gardens, bringing access to healthy food choices to under-served areas of our community. The Foundation runs free soccer programs, including providing equipment, in 10 schools and community centers.