A vast child obesity gap between affluent city, lower-income one

Manhattan Beach has the lowest child obesity rate in L.A. County, Bell Gardens the highest. Their demographics are starkly different, and residents’ perceptions on the issue can contrast sharply.

By Anna Gorman, Los Angeles Times

Doris Chang limits her three sons’ intake of sweets and doesn’t feed them any processed or frozen food. At their Manhattan Beach home, she monitors the boys’ time in front of the television and keeps them busy with baseball, basketball and karate.

About 20 miles to the northeast, Lorena Hernandez takes her 6-year-old daughter to McDonald’s at least twice a week and frequently gives her Kool-Aid and soda. They go to the park often, but when they are in their Bell Gardens home, the television is usually on.

The families’ divergent attitudes toward food and exercise reflect just part of the challenge facing officials as they try to close a vast and costly gap in obesity rates across the region.

Just 4% of children in affluent, mostly white Manhattan Beach are considered obese, the lowest rate countywide, according to public health officials. In poor, predominantly Latino Bell Gardens, the rate is 36% — higher than in any other city.

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