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Educators from Carolina Friends School in Durham explore the relationship between health and education.


CAROLINA FRIENDS SCHOOL is an independent Quaker school serving students 3-18. Contact the school at:

4809 Friends School Road
Durham, NC 27705
Telephone: ( 919) 383-6602


Katherine Scott is Communications Coordinator at Carolina Friends School. A native North Carolinian, Katherine holds a BA in graphic design and art history from Meredith College and an MA in art history from Rutgers University. In addition to graphic design and digital photography, Katherine is a consummate storyteller, always exploring new narrative forms, visually and otherwise. Her diverse experiences have provided her with expertise in strategic communications and project management.

The Issue: Obesity and Our Children

By Katherine Scott, MA

This issue of Health&Healing asks us to ponder the self-inflicted nature of obesity, smoking, and substance abuse. My approach in writing this column in many ways mirrors all of the work of Carolina Friends School: aimed at fostering not only deep self-reflection, but reflection on the needs of the greater community. This is at the core of the Quaker values that animate this community. Equity is one of those values, and it was at the heart of our founding as a purposefully integrated school in 1962.

Katherine Scott, MA

The United States is one of the most obese countries in the world—a diagnosis affecting about one-third of our population, with another third overweight. Most alarmingly, childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions, affecting children in classrooms all over our state and nation.

Obesity in children deserves special attention. And rather than framing this as a self-inflicted issue, the key to understanding this health crisis in our children is the connection between poverty and obesity, and an understanding of the ramifications of inequalities in children’s physical and social environments.

According to the 2010 census, the number of Americans living in poverty rose to 46 million—the largest number in over 50 years. There are nearly 50 million of us who are food insecure, uncertain of having or acquiring sufficient food. Many among that population are families with children.

Many of these families live in “food deserts”—areas where access to nutritious foods, such as through a supermarket, are unavailable. Access to those foods is additionally compounded by lack of transportation options, a very real limitation for those living in these poverty-dense areas. As a result, many families turn to inexpensive, nutritionally deficient, high-calorie food products or fast food. These neighborhoods also tend to lack parks or sports facilities and have increased incidents of violence, limiting access and opportunity for exercise.

Not only is obesity the seed for continued chronic illness for most of these children, but food insecurity also brings with it increased anxiety, depression, and behavioral problems. It not only affects their social and emotional growth, the ability to form healthy relationships, but their academic success. Food-insecure children are more likely to frequently miss school and repeat a grade than their food secure counterparts.

More than 18 percent of children in the US aged 12-19 years are obese, and we are failing these children. In Durham County, 12,780 children are food insecure. In Durham Public Schools, more than half of the children qualify for free or reduced lunch. At the close of 2016, the total of DPS students’ school lunch debt was $103,000. Thanks to a crowd-sourced fundraising campaign, that number has been reduced by more than half. You can find out more at: 

Additionally, there are long-standing and emerging community partnerships working to tackle the issue of food insecurity in our area, including Durham Public Schools’ Hub Farm, the SEEDS program, and emerging community gardens and innovative farm co-ops. Here in our learning community, one of the many ways in which our dedication to service has been lived is through donation drives to PORCH Durham and TABLE, Inc.

Together, we can support each other and provide all children in this and future generations with the nutrition they need.