Tipping the Scales

Kendra Hicks is a sophomore journalism major and a staff writer for The Journal.com

When I heard Missouri was the third fattest state in America, my reaction was, “Shocker!”  Seriously, what do we really expect from a state that is behind in public transportation, offers more soda than bottled water in middle and high schools and ranks 21st on fast food consumption?
Last year www.HealthyAmericas.org reported that Missouri ranked as the 12th most obese state in adults in the nation and 13.6 percent of Missouri children are obese.
One way we can help this growing problem is by making public transportation more accessible. In healthier states, people are encouraged to ride their bikes, take the bus or ride the train. Missouri’s problem is that the bus line has faced budget cuts and the Metro link doesn’t reach most counties.
I understand no two states are the same, but if we at least had  good public transportation it would make a lot of people think twice about driving. I personally love taking the Metrolink; if I could get to school that way I would never have to worry about a parking spot.
Driving less would promote walking, and walking can start weight loss. It sucks there isn’t better public transportation that can get people everywhere they need to go. Public transportation suffers because people are nervous that the property value on their houses may drop thanks to loud trains, or unfortunate residents loitering in upscale neighborhoods.
Of course, it’s hard to make good choices when you consider the most popular eateries in your area.
Having fast food restaurants on every corner is not helping Missouri get any healthier. On one street in my neighborhood in south city there is a choice of Lee’s Fried Chicken, Taco Bell, Sonic and the Courtesy Diner. All are within walking distance of each other.
I understand they want to give people a variety but Applebee’s and Uncle Bill’s shouldn’t be the only places in that neighborhood with menus that allow consumers to pick from something other than mystery meat.
Sweet Tomato is an all-you-can-eat restaurant that serves vegan/vegetarian meat in some of their foods. I’m not a vegan or a vegetarian, but I think that it’s always good to try something different.
I know when people think of becoming a vegetarian or eating healthy food, they think the food won’t have any flavor, or isn’t filling, but it’s actually the opposite. You can eat as much as you want, not feel bad about it afterward and not get sleepy after you eat.
As great as this place is, there are only three of these restaurants in Missouri, two in St. Louis and one in Kansas City, while California has 47 locations and Florida has 23. Lame.
A big reason why 13.6 percent of children are obese in this state is because of the things  they are eating and drinking while at school. In most high schools, there are soda machines everywhere. I remember being in high school dying from the heat because we had no air conditioning and going to the soda machine looking to buy a bottle of water and there was none. I couldn’t believe that out of the three soda machines on the floor of the lunch room, there was no water.
I later found out why there is little or no water in middle and high school vending machines. The soda companies pay the schools to put these machines in their lunch rooms, and if your school district was as poor as mine they put as many soda machines as they could in the school.
And the junk kids eat at school for lunch is just as bad as the stuff they are drinking.
High school lunches are terrible. Well, St. Louis public school lunches are terrible. The only thing I would eat in my own cafeteria was the chicken sandwiches because I could tell what they were. But most of the kids would eat everything but the food. We had so many choices of chips, homemade cookies (which were amazing), cupcakes and juice. The line for the snacks would be insane, much longer than the line for food.
My senior year of high school, they realized most of the students weren’t eating the lunch and decided to sell Papa John’s pizza at least twice a week and sell the chicken sandwiches every day instead of a couple times a month.
What makes this situation sadder is that the school knew it was wrong to feed us crap, knowing we would eat it. The health of the students didn’t matter; the school figured we were old enough to make our own decisions and pick healthier foods.
I think this is how Missouri feels. Most of us don’t care if we keep moving up the list of being the fattest state or that obesity levels are growing. We just want to keep living our lives the way we have and not change. It’s easier to stay in the same routine.

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