March 15, 2017
Sugar Free Kids Partners and Friends Discuss “The Science of Soda” at Prince George’s County Community Event
“The importance of healthy eating and drinking should be stressed just as much as the importance of an education,” said Semira Said, a senior at Al-Huda High School in College Park. “A person’s diet really does affect their ability to work and think effectively. As a high school student, I’ve noticed that I feel lethargic when I eat unhealthy and energized after eating food that’s good for me.”
Said was a featured speaker at “The Science of Soda,” a Prince George’s County community event, hosted by Sugar Free Kids Maryland on Feb. 27. The evening focused on the nutrition of sugary drinks and the psychology of sugary drink predatory marketing. The event, which drew dozens of students, advocates and county officials, was held at the College Park Airport near the University of Maryland.
Speakers and logistical planning for the affair was provided by coalition partners, including the American Heart Association, Prince George’s County Department of Parks & Recreation, Prince George’s County Food Equity Council, United Healthcare and the Youth Activism Project.
“This community forum was a great opportunity for us to impact Prince George’s County by raising awareness of the impact sugar has on the increase of unhealthy weights and chronic diseases,” said Executive Director Shawn McIntosh. “We were able to discuss policy initiatives that can help improve the food environment and get the ball rolling in the county.”
Dr. Arethusa Stevens Kirk of United Healthcare opened the evening with an eye-opening discussion, speaking of how to maintain healthy diets and portion sizes. She explained that factors of childhood obesity include decreases of physical education and recess at school, large portion sizes, overconsumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and unhealthy food advertising aimed at children.
Horizon Foundation Chief Program Officer Glenn Schneider discussed how sugary drinks are getting less popular in Howard County through the HoCo Unsweetened #BevRev advertising campaign. He noted that young people are showing others how cool it can be to drink healthy. “The youth of Howard County is shining light on the harmful practices of sugary drink companies,” said Schneider. “Given such high youth consumption rates, sugary drinks have become the tobacco products of this generation. You don’t get happiness from drinking them. You get diabetes, heart disease and cavities.”
Said then joined fellow local high school students Adeyemi Micheal Adeduro and Sylas Simla in explaining to the crowd how difficult it is for teens to find healthy options in their recreation centers and other places with vending machines around the state. They are excited to work with Sugar Free Kids Maryland to expand healthy vending options around the state. These Prince George’s County students are part the Youth Activism Project, which is helping teens become active in the fight for healthy eating and drinking options in the state.
Sugar Free Kids Maryland will be holding more regional events to discuss policies that promote healthy eating and drinking throughout the state in the coming months. “We look forward to continued work with youth and families in Maryland to increase access to healthier food and beverage choices,” said McIntosh.