How Portland, Maine Took a Stand Against Childhood Obesity. It Spent $3.7 Million to Rally Schools and Other Sites in the State. More Families Adopted 5-2-1-0 a Day: At Least 5 Servings of Fruits and Vegetables , 2 Hours or Less of Screen Time, at Least 1 Hour of Exercise, and 0 Sugary Drinks. After All That, the Childhood Overweight-and-Obesity Rate for Southern Maine Dipped 1.5 Percentage Points to 31.3%.
At first, it seems obvious: Recess and fruit keep kids trimmer and healthier than videogames and cookies. But there isn’t much that’s obvious about moving the needle on childhood obesity rates in the U.S.
Nine year-old Ayub Mohamud was gaining weight rapidly when he went to see his doctor at a pediatric clinic here in September. At home, Ayub and his four siblings snacked regularly on candy, chips and soda; a younger brother also was overweight. Ayub ate two breakfasts, one at home and one at school, and got little exercise during the long Maine winters. He had a dark skin coloring on the back of his neck called “acanthosis nigricans,” which can be a sign of being prediabetic.
By the end of January, after implementing some of Portland’s 5-2-1-0 principles, Ayub had lost three pounds. His mother stopped buying a lot of candy, soda, and chips, and Ayub started eating carrots and broccoli. He and his 7-year-old brother were competing to do push-ups and sit-ups or try new foods. “I like it,” Ayub says of his healthier new life.