Last January, The Independent wrote a story about Northern California-based chef and nutritionist Patty James and her tour of the country in order to promote and learn about child nutrition. The campaign, called Shine the Light on America’s Kids, traveled through 41 states, and included interviews of kids from all backgrounds on their health.

Chef Patty James

In the United States, 16 percent of children ages 6 to 19 are overweight or obese. Almost a third of children ages 4 to 19 eat fast food every day. James’s concept for Shine the Light on America’s Kids was to go directly to the source, interviewing children on their own health. She asked questions like: “What does health mean to you?” and “Do you think you are healthy? Why or why not?”.

The results were then analyzed at Sonoma State University and show a general trend: Kids are interested in their health and want more information. As James stated, “Kids need more info than they’re getting. They’re a lot smarter and intuitive than people give them credit for.” As an example, she cited the fact that when asked what they usually want for a snack, many children said an apple. “Parents are giving the kids candy bars and sodas, and the kids just kept telling me apple, apple, apple,” James said.

After her 18,000-mile journey, James is now moving into phase two of her project and figuring out what to do with the data. On May 1 she held a data release party in Santa Rosa, California. She also introduced her new organization, Direction Five.

In June and July, Direction Five will carry out pilot programs geared at educating children about their health. These 10-day programs will teach kids about anatomy, the environment, exercise and fitness, and cooking. James envisions holding these programs throughout the country. Although it costs $580 to put one child through the program, all the money will be generated through grants and community donations.

James stressed the importance of educating children on what they’re eating, how their bodies work, and how to make better choices. While parents have a crucial role to play in their children’s health, Shine the Light on America’s Kids’ ( data shows that yes, children are undereducated about their health, but that they want to know more.

In James’s words: “They want to learn a lot, and they need to learn a lot.”


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