Ethan Oro, 12, of Menlo Park is leader in childhood obesity fight

Oro named to national youth advisory board

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.

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Like this comment
Posted by Student
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 23, 2010 at 8:13 pm

Kids have been eating potato chips since God invented the potato.

The rise in obesity is more linked to a severe decrease in physical activity levels. Don't blame McDonalds or Lays.

Like this comment
Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on Aug 23, 2010 at 8:45 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Like this comment
Posted by Ruby
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 24, 2010 at 1:44 am

Childhood obesity is the result of helicopter parent/s and the failure of moms to provide home cooked meals. Put down that cell phone, shut off the computer and get back in the kitchen.

Like this comment
Posted by local gurl
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 24, 2010 at 11:49 am

Yes, let's put us moms back in the kitchen. May I at least wear shoes?

Like this comment
Posted by CC
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 24, 2010 at 12:04 pm

I hope that Ethan and the other 23 kids help to find the answers!
Their should be more kids in this program.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 24, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Childhood obesity has different causes for different children, but overall they are eating poorly and exercising too little.

Get kids moving and eating at meal times rather than snacking/grazing/eating junk food and treats. Ban treats and other food at school other than school meals or what a child brings themself for lunch, stop pizza parties as rewards, snack rotas for sports and get back to eating dinner together as a family which is cooked at home, are all ways to get into eating healthier.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 24, 2010 at 1:08 pm

PS and also get them riding or walking to school.

Like this comment
Posted by walk to school
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 24, 2010 at 3:44 pm

Sports are great, but everyday activities like biking or walking to school can be even more healthy. The problem with after school sports is that they are hard to keep up during the off-season.

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Parker
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 17, 2010 at 9:54 pm

Congrats Ethan!

I agree, biking and walking to school is the right type of routine that kids need to be healthier AND get a few more cars off the road.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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