Now that childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years it is well known that being overweight during childhood and adolescence increases the risk of developing high cholesterol, hypertension, respiratory ailments, orthopedic problems, depression and type 2 diabetes as a youth (1).
Furthermore, overweight adolescents have a 70 percent chance of becoming overweight or obese adults. This statistic increases to 80 percent if one or more parent is overweight or obese (2).
Given these startling realities, childhood nutrition has had a strong presence in the news. First lady Michelle Obama is a public figure striving to end childhood obesity. Her interest blossomed after beginning an organic White House garden, set up with the help of local elementary school children. Her passion for working on the problem evolved into these efforts:
- Collaborating with the USDA’s Chefs Move to Schools program
- Launching the Let’s Move campaign
- Supporting the Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act of 2010 - a bill to reform the National School Lunch Program and other key child nutrition programs
Although the Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act of 2010 draft bill, released earlier this month, is a good step toward improving current nutrition standards and nutrition education in schools, it does not go far enough in ensuring that every school can provide children with the healthiest options on the lunch line.
Most significantly, the draft does not include any of the provisions of the Healthy School Meals Act, a bill introduced earlier this year to help schools offer more healthful, plant-based options, which now has 65 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives.
Plant-based options are naturally low in saturated fat, cholesterol free, and full of fiber. The Healthy School Meals Act also has an important provision to ensure that all children—including millions who are lactose intolerant, allergic, or who avoid milk for religious or ethical reasons—can choose a nutritious, nondairy beverage with their school meal.
Perhaps you’d like to get more involved in your local school, or simply begin making small changes with your family. Check out this ever-evolving list of School Nutrition Resources.
Other Related Articles:
1. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Available at: http://aspe.hhs.gov/health/reports/child_obesity/ Accessed: June, 2010.
2. Torgan, C. (2002). Childhood obesity on the rise. The NIH Word on Health. Downloaded from: http://www.nih.gov/news/WordonHealth/jun2002/childhoodobesity.htm Accessed: Feb. 2005.
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