LETTER: Steinmetz column inaccurate in depiction of obesity programs

Monday, December 15, 2008 | 10:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:32 p.m. CDT, Thursday, April 7, 2011

Katy Steinmetz's commentary (Dec. 4) on Columbia's recently announced Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities award to fight child obesity was inaccurate in its basic premise.

Ms. Steinmetz is correct in saying child obesity is no laughing matter, but her characterization of the project, "to organize educational events that encourage children to eat more healthfully," is wrong. The PedNet Coalition and our partners have received many grants over recent years to address child obesity through education and encouragement programs. The Walking School Bus, bicycle education and media literacy classes are just some of the outcomes of these efforts, and they are all making a difference at the local and national level.

However, the national Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities program and Columbia's local Healthy Environment Policy Initiative are not about behavior change. Instead, they will address the much more challenging problem of institutionalized barriers to healthy living. Public policies, entrenched systems of transportation planning, food distribution and cultural/social norms, all conspire to create an environment in which thousands of Columbia kids, especially those living in lower-income neighborhoods, do not have access to healthy foods or safe places to be active. In this project, the PedNet Coalition, in partnership with the city of Columbia, MU, Columbia Public Schools and others, will evaluate these barriers, identify public policy approaches to reduce or eliminate them, educate policymakers and the public about why these changes are important for our community and then seek to implement them.

The project's goal will be to create an environment where the healthy choice is the easy and automatic choice — ironically, quite similar to the idea of sneakily depriving kids of junk food as put forward by Ms. Steinmetz. At any rate, we promise there will be no "vegetable-themed parades"

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Ray Shapiro December 23, 2008 | 2:37 a.m.

Dear Mr. Pednet Executive Director; I can understand your concern for the percieved inaccuracies in the wonderful story Ms. Steinmetz shared with us, however you fail to acknowledge the main point she has made. (FYI: The accountability, responsibility and impact parent(s)/guardian(s) have on their children's health.) Where are your parental training classes and home cooking workshops?
Instead, you choose to put "feathers in your cap" concerning bicycle usage and walking to school. (Both, for practical, safety and health reasons I would hope would be seasonal.)
As for the "lack of access to healthy foods or safe places to be active," you must be either oblivious, gullible or a poltician.
There are three things that are plentiful in our town. Access to food, clothing and things to do. (Yes, believe it or not, for everyone. Even considering the "plight" of the poor, neglected, misunderstood, "inner-city youths" you are so concerned about.)
I realize that with all the money that flows through your organization, that you are probably a "salaried" executive director and maybe you need to justify your job and agency, but there will come a time when we have a new mayor and a new city manager where bikes and parks do not get the priority it currently does.
You state that "Initiative are not about behavior change," yet you finish your letter with...The project's goal will be to create an environment where the healthy choice is the easy and automatic choice." If that's not behavior change, I don't know what is.
Obese children? You guys are the beuracratic fat cats in my book!
(This is what you get for picking on that intelligent chubby little girl.)
Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and lay off of the plum pudding.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr December 23, 2008 | 4:10 a.m.

ray you know they do not want the entire story to get out to the public as that would jeopardize their cushy job status now wouldn't it.

Thank you ray for presenting the other side to the story.

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand December 23, 2008 | 6:41 a.m.

Is this the same organization that has wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars painting icons and stripes on Columbia streets? Multiply that by hundreds of thousands of similarly silly programs nationwide, and it's no wonder we're running a deficit. Skeptical? Look at some of the items in the recent and proposed stimulus packages. It all adds up.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr December 23, 2008 | 7:08 a.m.

Yes Ayn Rand those Street Icons are painted with "low quality road approved paints" so they will have to redo them every 6 months to 1 year as all other things painted on the roads in this city are. You know they create their own job security at the expense of the tax payers.

The rest of this country needs to take a lesson from the state of California where they only use the highest quality of road approved paints that only have to be repainted once every two years.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz December 23, 2008 | 8:10 a.m.

Chuck, where is your evidence that they are using a leser paint? I would hope they are using a better paint if it generates a savings to the taxpayer after the proper cost-benefit analysis (don't get me started on the whole symbol painting since that is out of our hands now), but I have not seen any word in the media that they are using a less-permanent or wear-resistant paint. Could you share your sources?

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr December 23, 2008 | 8:28 a.m.

John Schultz unless you have lived in other states and actually kept your eyes on the various road ways traveled when you lived there then it is quite obvious you would not know these simple things.

Look from the time they paint any traffic lines in this city,county,state and how short of time those lines and symbols fade away. It usually is 6 months to 1 year.

This is not the only place I have lived for an extended period of time by John Schultz unlike some.

The paint they use is obviously of a lower quality as it fades very fast under any conditions or time of year they paint.

Do not start your nit picking with me over simple facts any motorist or pedestrian can see with their own two eyes John Schultz.

It does not take a rocket scientist nor a fully credited professor or chemist at M.U. to see the obvious.

If you think I am wrong which I know I am not then go take pictures every three months over a one year of time and compare the decolorization of the paint in question on most any busy road way in this city.

Then go our to the state of California and do the same thing. Huge difference I guarantee you.

The state of California uses a type of paint that lasts over two years with very little to no fading over time due to it's high quality thus "saving them money and freeing up resources and man power" to be able to work on other road projects.

Maybe that is why there are alot of Pork Farms in this state so they can keep on allowing bids on these almighty "pork barrel projects like the painting of the roads in this state".

Here piggy piggy.................

(Report Comment)
John Schultz December 23, 2008 | 10:40 a.m.

Chuck, how do you know the paint you claim was used on the bike symbols was the "bad" paint? Have you inquired of the PedNet folks, researched it in the media, or just made a guess because Missouri is not as good as Californis in your opinion?

Most of those symbols were painted in summer or fall and still look OK to me. I think you're just griping as usual, but I would be happy if you can prove me wrong. A simple yes or no to my original question would have sufficed, rather than your multi-paragraph response that tried to denigrate me and avoid the question.

I am fully aware that there are issues with paint on the roads in the area, but some of that is due to differing maintenance schedules (several roads in town are actually state-maintained) or using cheaper paint and painting more often rather than using the more expensive paint due to cost-benefit analysis.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr December 23, 2008 | 11:53 a.m.

John Schultz you are nit picking once again. It is that simple. If you cannot see the problems I do not know what else to tell you.

It does not take a Nuclear Chemist Accredited to M.U. to be able to tell that the usage of cheap paint is a cause of the lines fading prematurely when painted.

Nit pick away all that you want but it is quite obvious there is a problem.

There are bike symbols that were not painted too long ago even on side streets that are already faded and they should not be.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz December 23, 2008 | 12:31 p.m.

Is it nitpicking to ask you to back up a claim you make? No, I do not think so, nor would I claim you were nitpicking at me if you asked me to do the same. If you feel the city used cheap paint for the bike symbols, ask the PedNet folk and find out instead of venting here. The former will get a lot more done than the latter.

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand December 23, 2008 | 1:35 p.m.

The PedNet stuff actually looks superior to whatever the city uses, at least in terms of thickness of application. If so, that wouldn't surprise me: It's federal pork, so who cares? (Just keep that logic in mind the next time you read about some earmark project out in South Dakota. Think of it as payback for them funding PedNet and the Missouri Theater.)

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr December 23, 2008 | 1:44 p.m.

Ayn Rand ya they put it on real thick but it is still cheap by nature. Drive out to some of the other places these have been put and you can see how faded they are. Also drive on Hitt Street and see how faded they are. They only make them look good in the beginning because they put the reflective powder on them.

You are correct though about all of the pork involved.

Here piggy piggy piggy..................

(Report Comment)
Robert Johnson December 23, 2008 | 2:20 p.m.

I think I can clarify a couple of points being discussed on here.

The Healthy Kids Healthy Activities Grant that the PedNet Coalition received and that this story is about is a grant from a private donor. It did not come from the Federal Government and no tax dollars are being used for it. Robert Wood Johnson (no relation to me) is a philanthropist who has dedicated his fortune to improving the health of Americans.

The City of Columbia's GetAbout Columbia project which is under the City of Columbia Public Works Department is in charge of the bicycle infrastructure like trails, bike lanes and the Sharrow's. So any comments or questions regarding infrastructure should be directed at them.

I realize that its confusing and that its easy to think of the term, "PedNet" when thinking of everything bicycle related in Columbia but PedNet is the name of a local non profit organization. It became even more confusing when the City initially decided to call the Federal Non Motorized Transportation Pilot Project grant, "The PedNet Project" which has since been changed to ,"GetAbout Columbia."

Federal dollars and more specifically dollars from the general treasury have been used for transportation projects for decades. Some call this pork because its being used for active transportation versus fossil fuel powered transportation which most of us are more used to.

I hope that helps the confusion.

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand December 23, 2008 | 2:57 p.m.

If the Obama administration is so big on green, why does it advocate bailing out automakers and spending even more on roads? Answer: All of those actions are tacit acknowledgments that most Americans are unwilling to drive less.

(Report Comment)
Robert Johnson December 23, 2008 | 3:17 p.m.

There is plenty of evidence that communities who build the infrastructure get ridiculous results in getting people to drive less and bike and walk more.

Boulder Colorado, Madison Wisconsin, David California and Portland Oregon are great examples. Portland has 8% of all trips made inside the city is accomplished via bicycle.

People are more than willing to do it if they feel safe. People are looking for ways to improve their health and lower their transportation costs and our country is in desperate need for it.

Here are the stat's from Portland. Please note that cycling there has doubled since 2005. Almost everyone that I talk to agrees that the number of bicyclists in Columbia has risen dramatically in the past few years.

Driving in the United States has been going down for the past two years for the first time since the 1970's. Even now with cheap gas prices people are not going back to the automobile.

You may not ever ride a bicycle for transportation but lets not make such wide generalizations about it. Many people do not like sending their money to terrorist harboring nations and people do not like being unhealthy due to a lack of exercise. Many, many people are turning to the bicycle every day.

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand December 23, 2008 | 3:51 p.m.

Wow. 8%. In other words, 92% of trips are still by car.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro December 23, 2008 | 4:53 p.m.

And what do these Oregon bikers do in the winter? Stay home and order in pizza?
How well do their children handle their hills? Did their "Pednets" level the city's terrain?
And what about their "inner-city" Youths?
Have they no ARC?
Does their biker poulation of 8% include transient college students?
Do they have a Mayor named Darwin?
Is Oregon "fat-free?"
Are your numbers "skewed?"

(Report Comment)
timtim December 23, 2008 | 4:53 p.m.


I invite you to read the link. 60% of trips are made by single occupant car in Portland.

And its dropping fast....dropped 5% in one year.

I caught your sarcasm and I'm not going to get caught up in a argument here. I thought someone might appreciate some clarification...thats all.



(Report Comment)
Robert Johnson December 23, 2008 | 4:56 p.m.

That last comment was by me just so there is no confusion.

Have a happy holiday.

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand December 23, 2008 | 5:14 p.m.

Robert/timtim, when I clicked on the link, I found that this was a self-selected survey. Scroll down to some of the comments, and you'll see why the data might be misleading.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro December 23, 2008 | 5:43 p.m.

It was a "survey," hence it reflects data reported only by the repondents.
Take this survey in front of the dorms or in front of our bicycle shops and see what "great" results we'd get in Columbia.
[The survey results were released last night. Among the mountains of data in the full report are several interesting tidbits about biking and traffic safety. Here are the highlights:
– When asked, “What is the primary means to get to and from work?”, 8% of Portlanders said bike. That’s up from 6% last year and the number has doubled since 2005. 11% of respondents said they take bus, MAX, or streetcar and 65% said they “Drive alone” — down 5% from 2007.]

(Report Comment)

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