Back to School and Childhood Obesity - The Struggle Continues
In April, I wrote a piece about the balance between personal choices and public policy in the battle to stem the deadly obesity crisis. Since that time, a lot has happened to educate and raise public awareness about junk food, regulate public consumption of unhealthy foods and beverages, and tackle the specific crisis of childhood obesity.
Just last week an important documentary on African-American cuisine, Soul Food Junkies premiered in New York City and recently PBS ran the ground-breaking series The Weight of the Nation. These education and awareness tools are growing conversation in communities across America and people are getting the information they need to make better choices. At the same time, advocates and activists are pushing for stronger regulations for the foods sold in supermarkets and served at restaurants and schools.
Nearly 23 million children in the United States are overweight or obese putting them at greater risk for heart disease, high blood pressure and type II diabetes. This year, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has improved the nutritional guidelines for school meals across the country. And, while this is a great step, children still have access to junk food through the presence of vending machines and a la carte lines.
Everyone agrees that children need to eat healthier, but there are differing opinions about whether or not stronger regulation on what is sold to kids in school will have an impact. Here is some food for thought:
The Archives for Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine published a report from Bridging the Gap which showed that children who lived in states that regulated their access to junk food in school consumed less calories overall and gained less weight than their peers in states with no regulations. In fact, a Pew report on California's ban on junk food showed that children did not make up for the empty calories banned in school by consuming more junk food at home. This has prompted advocates to continue to push for strong guidelines on the snack foods sold in schools.
We've all got a role to play in improving the health of our communities. The struggle continues.
This post is part of the MomsRising "Making the School Day Healthier" Blog Carnival headlined by Top Chef Lorena Garcia."