Fighting childhood obesity one neighborhood at a time

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HOUSTON, Tx. -- Childhood obesity has become an epidemic in America. Here in Houston, nearly one in every three kids are overweight or obese. But one non-profit group, CAN DO Houston, is working hard to bring those numbers down.

Founded in 2008, CAN DO (which stands for Children and Neighborhoods Defeat Obesity) targets lower-income areas like Pasadena, Sunnyside and Independence Heights, where access to healthy foods like fresh produce is limited. In Sunnyside, they have partnered with three corner stores to provide fresh fruit and vegetables at very affordable prices. And it seems to be working!

"With little kids, they'll come in and they won't go straight for the chips anymore," says Joey Vu, cashier at the J & B Food Market at the corner of Scott and Sunbeam. "They'll go straight for these healthy items instead." Those healthy items include fruit bars and fruit cups displayed prominently at the front counter and things like plums, bananas and apples in baskets nearby.

CAN DO Houston has also teamed with the city to offer free Zumba exercise classes at Magnolia Park's Rec Center. They picked that area after local residents said they did not have safe areas to exercise within the neighborhood.

Dr. Jasmine Opusunju, executive director with CAN DO Houston, says that's the key to real change in any community-- asking the residents what they need to live healthier. "There's no way to effectively get to the kids unless you deal with the parents," she says, "because the kids can only do so much."

For more on CAN DO Houston, check out this month's Houstonia.