business news in context, analysis with attitude

Great story in the Wall Street Journal this morning about how the community of Somerville, Massachusetts, has developed a holistic approach to fighting obesity.

“This town of 78,000 has undergone a subtle yet dramatic transformation in the past five years,” the Journal writes. “Restaurants have switched to low-fat milk and smaller portion sizes. The school district has nearly doubled the amount of fresh fruit at lunch. The town, just outside Boston, has repainted crosswalks to get more people walking to work or school.

“The numbers suggest it works. During the 2003-04 school year, Somerville schoolchildren gained less weight than children in two nearby communities used as a control group, according to a report published today in the medical journal Obesity. The difference was statistically significant and translates into preventing about a pound of excess weight gain among children who lean toward the heavy side, the report says.”

According to the story, the Somerville approach has been remarkably comprehensive. Kids are being educated in the schools about health and nutrition while they are seeing more nutritious choices in the cafeteria. Restaurants that meet certain criteria are given a kind of seal of approval by the town. And the local government is looking for every possible way – not necessarily expensive – to encourage people to get exercise.
KC's View:
Somerville happens to be the community where Steve Herrell founded the first Steve’s Ice Cream in 1973, a place that pretty much pioneered the “mixins” concept now being exploited by chains such as Cold Stone Creamery.

Coincidence? We think not.

We remember taking a long, long hike in Somerville once. It was the late seventies, and we were at a friend’s house there. A bunch of us had gathered for a feast that essentially was made up of Indian food and martinis, and when the evening was over, we all walked for what then seemed an interminable distance (it was probably two or three blocks) for some Steve’s ice cream.

The evening didn’t dampen our enthusiasm for exercise, Indian food or ice cream. But we’ve never had another martini.