The crunch of a bag of potato chips and the sizzling fizz of a can of soda constitute a daily symphony for many children who turn to junk food when snack time arises. For Ethan Oro, however, familiar sounds include the chopping of fresh vegetables, the rush of the wind while he runs down the soccer field, and his own voice as he spreads awareness and advice to combat childhood obesity.
Recently selected as one of 24 kids across the country to serve on a national youth advisory board for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, the Menlo Park 12-year-old says he is "passionate about trying to help kids become healthier."
The Alliance, founded in 2005 by the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation, is working to reduce the rate of childhood obesity.
Oro drew attention when his science project for Hillview Middle School, which examined factors that contribute to childhood obesity, won awards at the state science fair.
With statistics showing one in three children overweight, Oro is eager to work for the Alliance's empowerMe movement, which encourages kids to eat healthier and increase physical activities, instead of falling victim to some of the most common factors, such as bad snacking habits.
"Parents buy a bag of chips instead of a banana for their kids, then when they are teenagers or in college, they'll buy a bag of chips instead of fruit," he said. "It gets harder and harder to change your habits when you get older."
In addition to spreading the empowerMe movement to the Menlo Park City School District and the Ravenswood School District, Oro is setting up a booth at the Kids 4 Sports Run on Aug. 29 at Oak Knoll School in Menlo Park. The run supports after-school sports and supplies sports equipment to less-fortunate kids in east Menlo Park and East Palo Alto.
"Kids who play more are healthier," he said.
Oro's passion toward abating childhood obesity began because of his family's food allergies and his ongoing battle against asthma.
"I thought if I could teach kids to read nutrition labels, they could learn how to eat healthier in addition to preventing allergic reactions," he said.
He points to the efforts of first lady Michelle Obama to draw attention to problems causing childhood obesity. "I think she's a great role model for any person trying to help the community," he said.