By Enrico Shippole, VI Form
Imagine that I’m standing in front of you with a large grocery bag and that I’m going to offer to make you a dessert. From my bag, I would extract sugar, salt, three dyes (red 40, yellow 5, blue 1), and petroleum oil. Yes, petroleum oil is in many of our baked goods. I could keep going but I’ll lose your interest somewhere in the litany of the other 30 additives and preservatives.
I love food; I grew up in an Italian family, where gatherings happened around the kitchen table with real, fresh food. Today, it seems that too many family gatherings happen at a fast food counter.
According to the Center and Disease Control, over one-third of U.S. adults are obese and 12.5 million adolescents and children ranging from 2 to 19 years of age are obese. Of the preschool-age population, 1 in 7 of low-income is obese. It has become an epidemic due lack of exercise and poor food choices. Today, students are being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes; remember when it was called adult onset? Nearly 150 billion in medical costs are due to obesity related illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease. We need to read food nutrition labels and stop purchasing unhealthy items.
My independent project, The Great Cannection, was initiated to promote health and bring awareness to obesity. Over one million Massachusetts students in public, private, and charter schools were asked to donate healthy items during their food drives. Students helped eliminate foods contributing to obesity by requesting items containing low sodium and low sugar content.The students who donated the most pounds of healthy food received awards at Harvard from Dr. Walter C. Willett, Chair of the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health and Professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
The Great Cannection led me to a volunteer opportunity at the Harvard School of Public Health, where I am currently volunteering at the Health Professionals Follow–Up Study. The Health Professionals Follow–Up Study was initiated in 1986 and connects the relation between illnesses and nutritional factors.
This summer, I also taught exercise and nutrition classes to children at the Friendly House, an inner city community center which provides educational, health, food, and recreational services to help improve the life of its community residents, summer camp. I designed the exercise and nutrition program which focus on cardiovascular and callisthenic workouts. At the end of each session I played the game, What Am I? with the children. I gave nutritional facts about a fruit or vegetable hidden in a “Goody Bag” (goody referring to a good food), and the child who guessed it got to take it home. The children who received the fruit or vegetable were extremely excited, jumping up and down, screaming and hugging me. They were so excited to get a pineapple or a package of strawberries.
I started another project called “Giving Goodies” because “goodies” should be good for us. I gathered a group of children from the Friendly House, and we walked to a neighborhood home to deliver fresh fruits and vegetables to a family in need. We delivered to a mother with four children. When the children saw all of the good food they leapt with excitement. At St. Mark’s, I have never seen a student or faculty member jumping up and down while singing with euphoria, “I got a salad! I got a salad!”
I have learned that children want, and are happy to have, healthy and nutritious foods, although the fast food industry, which spends over 4 billion dollars in advertising each year, would like you to think differently. Children need healthier food options. I started the Lions Fitness Club sophomore year and we held a fundraiser in which over $1,000.00 was raised to purchase healthy items for the food pantry at the Friendly House. Many children were certainly happy that week.
I would like to thank a faculty member who has supported and encouraged me throughout the Great Cannection and my time here at St. Mark’s. Mr. David Lubick–I thank you for guiding and inspiring me to achieve greatness. And when I make it big, I won’t forget you.
Enrico Shippole is a VI Form day student from Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. He enjoys running contests at St. Mark’s and weight lifting.