Group addresses issue of obesity among children

TU Fit-5 works to raise funds for a nearby school playground.

In Philadelphia, approximately 60 percent of African-American and Latino children are overweight or obese, compared to 50 percent of white children, according to Foodfitphilly.org. TU Fit-5 is fighting to change these statistics.

As part of a semester-long project, the unofficial student organization is attempting to raise $1,000 to donate to Dunbar Elementary School to supply children with recess toys. It has yet to reach the halfway mark of its goal, but the organization has raised more than $340. Its efforts will bring needed sports equipment to children, encouraging them to become active.

“Since the school is in such a depressed area, they don’t have a lot of things,” said Ayodeji Ifafore, a junior entrepreneurship major and member of TU Fit-5. “If you walk by during recess, you might see two balls out there. You don’t see any jump ropes.”

“These are all things kids like to do, so we think it would be a good thing to help them out and give them some extra resources,” Ifafore added.

TU Fit-5 consists of five members from the Fox Business School of Business. Dr. Jean Wilcox, the creator of the class project, named its initiative “10-10-10.” As a part of her Entrepreneurial Marketing class, Wilcox gives 20 groups of students an initial investment of $10 to reinvest toward a worthy cause to reach a predetermined goal.

The members of TU Fit-5 said they chose to fight obesity because they all enjoy working with children and are aware of the health issues children face, such as diabetes, as a result of the lack of nutritional food available and a sedentary lifestyle. The members participate in an active lifestyle and realize the importance of promoting this to younger individuals.

Ifafore mentioned that the epidemic of childhood obesity has received national attention from first lady Michelle Obama, who has attempted to tackle childhood obesity through her “Let’s Move!” campaign. “Let’s Move!” suggests that creating a healthy start for children, empowering parents and caregivers, providing healthy food in schools, improving access to healthy, affordable foods and increasing physical activity are the five pillars to focus on to begin to reduce childhood obesity.

To promote awareness and fundraise, TU Fit-5 sells 9-ounce fruit cups at $1 and 12-ounce cups at $1.50 in the lobby of Alter Hall every Friday. By selling the fruit cups, members said they hope students become interested in the cause.

“They see that we’re selling something different than the people who are selling cupcakes,” said Raymond Wang, a senior international business administration and marketing major and TU Fit-5 member. “They are always wondering why we are doing this, and we tell them we are trying to fight [childhood] obesity.”

TU Fit-5 gives the option of personalizing purchased cups with different fruit options. Despite such a fresh idea, and Michelle Obama’s backing for the “Let’s Move!” program, Ifafore said the group lacks support from local officials.

“Although the spokesperson for ‘Lets Read. Let’s Move’ in Philadelphia said that Mayor [Michael] Nutter’s special secretary has handed her the letter, she does not return our phone calls,” Ifafore said. “We do not give up on City Hall. Robert Yerkov is a business major at Temple and a commissioner who contributes by putting our letter of in intent into the hands of people that can help.”

Brett Holland, a senior marketing major, mentioned the struggles related to organizing a nonprofit.

“I think the main thing with this project in particular is that we notice and realize the struggles that a nonprofit organization has,” Holland said. “In a real-life situation, this isn’t something that’s a project – we actually have to go forth and deal with these issues hands-on.”

The group is pushing forward with its project and expects positive outcomes. It’s trying to institute a sustainable program with the Fresh Grocer, which will partner with the parents of Dunbar Elementary, giving families the resources to fight childhood obesity, including discounts of certain fruits and vegetables.

Ideally, Ifafore said she would like to see a collective effort on behalf of Temple’s student body to help the surrounding community.

“If people go a step further to realize how important it is to educate the children about healthy food and work toward one cause,” Ifafore said. “Overall, that would be an impactful project.”

Kierra Bussey can be reached at kierrajb@temple.edu.

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