NPI’s Lorrene Ritchie quoted in The Washington Post article on increase in childhood obesity rates during the COVID-19 pandemic

Sep 3, 2021

Childhood obesity rates increased during the global COVID-19 pandemic according to a study published in August in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Results of the study, which included electronic medical record data of 200,000 children ages 5 to 17 in Kaiser Permanente Southern California, were featured in an August 31, 2021 article in The Washington Post. Nutrition Policy Institute director and cooperative extension specialist Lorrene Ritchie was quoted in the article, “before the coronavirus, studies showed that students tended to gain weight during the summer when away from school. They tend to gain weight at an accelerated rate, then during the school year their body mass index goes down, but not as much, so over time kids are getting more and more overweight and obese.” Ritchie also stated that “regular summer weight gain among students is attributed to missing recess, P.E. and school sports, as well as not getting exercise associated with traveling to and from school. It is also because studies show that school meals are, on average, healthier than what children bring from home. Also, kids in school have access to breakfast and lunch; at home during the summer there is frequently unfettered access to food all day long.” Ritchie was further quoted that “companies selling junk food have had more access during the pandemic to market directly to children who spent more time on screens. What this has taught us is that our food environment is way out of line with what we need. Food companies are geared to getting us to eat as many calories as possible. And we are geared toward eating when food is available.”

By Danielle L. Lee
Author - Director of Communications & Research Engagement
By Lorrene Ritchie
Editor - Director of the Nutrition Policy Institute and Cooperative Extension Nutrition Specialist