Sociology students trim down obesity

Anthony Cornwell

Kent State East Liverpool sociology students make progress on various methods of studying food systems and the impact of food on the total health and advantages for the community.

Lydia Rose, director of research and sociology professor at the East Liverpool campus, said she received a grant from Youth Service America & United Healthcare to research childhood obesity and bring awareness of the issue to East Liverpool and engage with the local youth.

“East Liverpool has a high level of children living in poverty,” Rose said. “Many children were suffering from both issues of childhood hunger along with obesity issues.”

Rose said researching food systems became a national and global trend when obesity issues became nationally recognized with the initiatives by First Lady Michelle Obama to fight childhood obesity. She said the convenience of highly processed foods is a way to provide safe food to a large number of people, but has negative outcomes: namely with high levels of sugar and salt.

“In terms of culture, we have to desire fresh fruits and vegetables over highly processed foods,” she said. “We have to have structures in place where one can access and have available [all] healthy options.”

She said food systems need to undergo cultural and structural changes, and trying to change cultural practices to include healthy options takes serious commitment and resources.

“I received funding to offer the healthy options but the funds may not be available at our next campus event,” she said. “Social change takes a commitment by everyone to voice their opinions to make such a commitment.”

She says it does not help with the East Liverpool campus not having a dining hall. There are only vending machines and packaged food in the bookstore.

“It is very problematic if one forgets to pack their lunch and has a heavy schedule in which one cannot leave campus to procure a meal,” she said. “The lack of food options has led my students to conclude that East Liverpool is a food desert.”

Kristin Mercer, a senior majoring in criminology and student of Rose’s, said she believes the research conducted and analyzed is critically important for not only East Liverpool students, but for everyone who learns about it.

“Obesity leads to many other health problems like diabetes and heart disease that can take numerous years off of someone’s life,” Mercer said. “The more one is educated about nutrition and healthier food options, the better choices they will make that will improve their overall health.”

East Liverpool’s Environmental Club decided to hold meetings to provide a healthy lunch where the members, students, faculty and staff would have a viable food option other than driving outside of downtown East Liverpool to get lunch.

“This decision was a direct result of the research done by the students in my Researching Society Class on Food Systems,” Rose said.

Rose along with Mercer and the rest of her students, will be showcasing their research at the Undergraduate Research Conference at Salem Dec. 11.

Contact Anthony Cornwell at [email protected].