TORONTO – Taking a bite out of childhood obesity is the goal of a children’s book that uses humour to make the connection between food and health.
In “Fartzee Shmartzee’s Fabulous Food Fest,” Adam Michael Segal uses an animated character to champion healthy eating.
Segal, a writer specializing in health and wellness, found himself increasingly disturbed at some of the food choices available to his two children, now eight and six. He noticed students are often rewarded with treats and many schools hold hotdog and pizza fundraisers.
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One day his daughter brought home a jar from school filled with a sugary snack called “toxic waste.”
“What was concerning was that she thought it was the coolest thing ever. And to me that’s a problem. Kids think that this unhealthy food is so cool,” says the Thornhill, Ont., resident.
It got him thinking about characters associated with sugary foods that kids love — including some from his own childhood — such as the leprechaun from Lucky Charms cereal and the cartoon naval officer advertising Cap’n Crunch.
“There’s so many fun and cool characters that those cereals have,” says the 39-year-old. “When you’re a kid it’s just like watching a cartoon.”
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He wrote the book, then a high school friend and animator, Daniel Abramovici, provided the illustrations.
“I said I wanted to create a character that is just as cool and fun as these ones that they’re using for unhealthy ingredients, basically use the same thing but for a good reason,” Segal says.
“The sooner we can get children to realize the benefits of healthy food and make it enjoyable for them the greater the chance they’re going to be able to carry on that habit of eating healthy the rest of their lives.”
The World Health Organization says childhood obesity is one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century. Globally in 2013, the number of overweight children under age five was estimated to be more than 42 million, up from 32 million in 1990.
Overweight and obese children are likely to stay obese into adulthood and more likely to develop diabetes and cardiovascular diseases at a younger age, the WHO says.
Segal’s self-published book is available at Amazon.ca and in select Indigo stores.