First Person: San Diego's Sustainable Santa Out To Change Santa's Image
A local Santa has gone from pushing candy canes to encouraging healthy eating. He is bringing others along with him. As part of our first-person series we hear from Santa himself. What we aim to do, it sounds a little bit ambitious but what we aim to do is change the eating culture of America from the fast food in the processed food which we have gotten in the habit of eating to eating real food and living a sustainable lifestyle. [ Music ]. My name is sustainable sentiment the Vista farmers market in the parking lot in front of the courthouse in Vista, California. I used to be a mall Santa and when I finally woke up and got healthy and lost 80 pounds, the people that I worked for made me where able to get the American Santa image of the heavy guy. Decimate me pass out candy canes and M&M peanuts and I thought this makes no sense at all. What really put me over the edge was, I would be lifting 60 pound four-year-olds into my lap for the Christmas picture. Talk about childhood obesity and you say it is a real problem. Unless you have a conga line of four-year-olds that you can barely, fairly strong for 75 years of age but barely get them up into your lap, it really comes on. About on the childhood obesity crisis to me in spades. Without there had to be another way, a dozen location and another message and that is why we settled on the farmers markets. I know have sent us all over the state of California. I have seven Santos just like me in 12 farmers markets in San Diego County alone. You cannot talk about healthy eating in the mall with the courts and pencils down the hallway etc. Farmers markets you have proud organic farmers who have raised lovingly their crops forgive people who have lovingly raised the animal meats, chicken and things like that. You have a lot of proud people in the farmers market you are just as anxious as we are to have healthy kids. The farmers market is the place where health and happiness lives. Rule number one goes to the fact that American children eat out of boredom, habit and something to do. They go to 7-Eleven empyema back ace -- buy a slur piece.'s belief you are hungry even Apple. You do not want an Apple? If you are not hungry to eat an apple then you're probably not hungry and the thought will pass. Keeps you from putting things him out just for the sake of doing it. The S you. No soda, no second helpings, no between Mel Sachs, no added sugar, salt and no sweets except on possibly days that begin with the letter S. What happens is the food rules are designed to get the kids to break away from the fast food comes the junk food in the process food which is loaded with sugar. As they go run on December the farmers are giving you a taste of real fresh food. They love the treasure hunt. We send them out looking for Santos garden bites and that is where the vendors sample healthy tastes of whatever it is they are selling. The Love looking for the little symbol. When they find it, they taste it, turn replica mom and say, it was green or yellow but it tasted good. [ Music ]. The problem is very simple. First of all it is not the problem of childhood obesity. Everyone talks about it but the fact of the matter is that the illnesses that obese adults and children's get the same illnesses that nonobese children get. 80% of the people, children or adults who are obese will get in life-threatening disease that is driven by a bad diet. 40% of those who are slender will also get the same diseases and that is because of all of the sugar in the processed food. All of the additives that are in the processed food. All of the arsenic in the antibiotics that are in the chickens at all of the fast food places. That adds up to an annual expenditure of $1.4 trillion a year in medical costs. $1.4 trillion of unnecessary spending if we only ate right. I have been here since the bank weeks before Thanksgiving. I have had one child come back every farmers market just to tell me how they have been eating that week. That makes it all worth it. What have you been eating? Carrots, apples, broccoli. Do know what is so good about broccoli? If we eat it raw, when you break it off it looks like little trees. If you notice that? That was sustainable stented, Richard exhibit the songs you heard where -- the piece was produced by our mid-18 producer route. -- Broke route. Join us again tomorrow for KPBS Midday Edition at noon. Will need a new city councilmember Georgette Gomez and get a taste of the San Diego book awards but remember if you ever miss a show check out the Midday Edition podcast.
Richard Nielsen-Eckfield used to be a mall Santa.
When he lost 80 pounds, his employer asked him to wear a pillow under his shirt to fit the American image of Santa.
"But what really put me over the edge was I would be lifting 60-pound four-year-olds into my lap for that Christmas picture. You talk about childhood obesity and you say 'oh its a real problem.' (When) you have a conga line of four-year-olds that you can barely ... get them up into your lap, it really comes home," he said.
That's when Nielsen-Eckfield came upon the idea of being a healthy Santa at farmer's markets.
He has now expanded the healthy Santa movement across California. In San Diego County there are seven healthy Santas at 12 farmers markets.
At the markets, the Santas speak to the children about eating healthy foods.
As part of our First Person series, Nielsen-Eckfield talks about going from being a mall Santa to becoming "Sustainable Santa."