Winter 2010 Vol. 2, No. 2
Topic of the Quarter: Healthy School Foods
First Lady Michelle Obama has told the nation, “Let’s Move!” to combat childhood obesity. With one-third of American children overweight or obese and national health care spending on obesity approaching $150 billion annually, Mrs. Obama has set in motion a nationwide campaign to tackle the challenge of childhood obesity and reverse the epidemic. Providing healthier food in schools is part of the equation to help children establish healthy eating habits, set the stage for better lifetime health, and prevent diet-related health problems such as type 2 diabetes and risk factors for heart disease. Longstanding evidence also documents the developmental and cognitive benefits of adequate nutrition. Simply stated, well-nourished kids do better in school.
School is where children consume up to 50 percent of their daily calories, so it is an opportune place to introduce them a variety of delicious healthy foods and beverages. The federal-state National School Lunch Program now serves 31 million American children daily in more than 101,000 elementary and secondary schools; while the School Breakfast Program reaches more than 88,000 schools. In addition, many schools sell individual food items to students a la carte in a separate cafeteria line, in vending machines, or in school stores, canteens or the like (otherwise known as “competitive foods.”)
In order to combat childhood obesity, policymakers, parents, school administrators and food service directors, farmers, ranchers, and many other food producers and vendors are all looking at ways to bring healthier foods to school children. Among the policy options that state legislators have considered and acted upon regarding healthier eating at school include: setting nutritional quality standards for school meals and for competitive foods and beverages served outside the school meal program; establishing farm-to-school programs that bring locally grown fresh produce to schools for meals and snacks; providing information about the nutritional content of school meals and a la carte items at the point of purchase; scheduling recess time before lunch; and including nutrition education in school curriculums, sometimes with hands-on opportunities to grow fruits and vegetables in school gardens.
States have demonstrated that school environments can model healthy eating choices and behaviors, help improve students’ diets, and help children establish lifelong healthy eating habits. They have accomplished this by establishing and enforcing state nutrition policies with standards for foods and beverages sold outside of the school meal programs, which ensure that only healthy food and beverage options are available to students and by providing students with opportunities to try nutritious foods, such as fresh local produce and discover that it is delicious.
Improving Child Nutrition- Legisbrief
Physical Activity Guidelines - Legisbrief
Childhood Obesity Policy Options 2009 - NCSL Webpage
Sodium Reduction - Legisbrief
Chronic Costs - Article in NCSL's December 2009 issue of State Legislatures magazine
Making Fresh Food a SNAP - Trends and Transition piece in the December 2009 issue of State Legislatures magazine
Upcoming Events and NCSL Resources
School Food Webinar
Join us March 12, 2010 at 12:00 PM Eastern time for an NCSL and Kellogg Foundation sponsored webinar focusing on innovations that help bring more nutritious food to schools. More
April 7-10, 2010, Washington DC. The NCSL Spring Forum brings together state lawmakers, legislative staff and national policy experts from across the country who converge to share ideas, best practices and strategies. Twelve NCSL Standing Committees will meet at Spring Forum to discuss state issues and the effect of federal actions. More
NCSL can provide testimony to legislatures on preventing injuries and violence; reducing health disparities; the uninsured and access to health care; issues related to community health centers; chronic disease-related issues; health promotion; and other health policy topics. Send technical assistance requests to: Healthfirstname.lastname@example.org.
Resources on Healthy School Foods
CDC Map - Percentage of Secondary Schools Not Selling Less Nutritious Foods and Beverages
Availability of Less Nutrtious Snack Foods and Beverages in Secondary Schools ---Selected States, 2002-2008
CDC - Healthy Youth!: Nutrition
CDC - Nutrition Standards for Foods in Schools
CDC - School Health Policies
In the News
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, University of Wisconsin to Launch First State-by-State County Health Rankings
County Health Rankings, a first-of-its-kind collection of 50 reports – one per state – that ranks all counties within each state on their overall health was released on February 17 by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. The Rankings show how counties measure up within each state in terms of how healthy people are, how long they live, and how important factors affect their health, such as tobacco use, obesity, access to healthcare, education, community safety, and air quality. This is the first release of what will be an annual snapshot of county-by-county health within each state.
Fall Forum Preconference: Improving Women's Health Through Prevention, Detection and Treatment of Chronic Disease
On December 9-10, 2009 in San Diego, California, NCSL's Health Program and Women’s Legislative Network held a preconference entitled "Improving Women’s Health Through the Prevention, Detection and Treatment of Chronic Disease." The preconference addressed the rising rates of chronic health problems, which pose a significant and unsustainable burden on the U.S. health care system.
More than $119 Million Awarded to States and Territories through ARRA
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has awarded more than $119 million to states and U.S. territories to support public health efforts to reduce obesity, increase physical activity, improve nutrition, and decrease smoking-the four most important actions for combating chronic diseases and promoting health. This money supports the one of several components in the Department’s comprehensive prevention and wellness initiative, Communities Putting Prevention to Work, which is funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
States Cut Funding for Tobacco Prevention Programs
This recently released report by the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation finds that despite collecting record amounts of revenue from the 1998 tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, states have cut funding for programs to reduce tobacco use by over 15 percent in the last year.
New York City Announces Plan to Reduce Salt in Foods
In January, the Bloomberg Administration unveiled a new health initiative aimed at encouraging food manufacturers and chain restaurants to voluntarily reduce sodium in their products by 25 percent over the next five years. The initiative will reduce the incidence of high blood pressure, which is a major cause of stroke and heart attacks. The plan is supported by health agencies in other cities and states, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities Expands Program to Reverse Childhood Obesity
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) is expanding a landmark national program to create communities where children and their families have access to healthy, affordable foods and safte places to play and exercise. Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities is a cornerstone of RWJF's $500 million commitment in childhood obesity prevention.
A total of 50 sites in more than half the states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico are being funded through this program to craft innovative solutions aimed at helping children and families lead healthier lives.
The Impact of State Budgets on Public Health
For FY 2010, 17 states have reported general fund budget gaps of more than 20 percent; another 18 have reported gaps of between 10 percent and 20 percent; and five states have reported gaps of between 5 percent and 10 percent. The states' financial condition is expected to continue to worsen during the course of the fiscal year. NCSL has compiled a series of tables that document measures that states are proposing or taking to close health budget gaps, including both cutting costs and generating new revenues. To follow other state trends visit the NCSL Budget and Tax website.
Public Health Project Partner News
NCSL collaborates with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other national organizations—including the National Governors Association, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials and the Society for Public Health Education—on this public health project. Recent resources available from partner organizations on public health topics include:
Let's Move - First Lady's Childhood Obesity Initiative
First Lady Michelle Obama has announced Let's Move, a nationwide campaign to tackle the challenge of childhood obesity by supporting parents, providing healthier foods in schools, helping kids to be more physically active and making healthy food available and affordable in communities.
NCSL has also set up a webpage to spotlight NCSL's obesity related resources. More
The National Governors Association has released a January 2010 Issue Brief, “State Strategies to Help Schools Make the Most of Their National School Lunch Program.”
CDC and the Arthritis Foundation Relase A National Public Agenda for Osteoarthritis
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Arthritis Foundation have just announced the release of A National Public Health Agenda for Osteoarthritis, the first-ever national blueprint focused on the most common form of arthritis that affects 27 million adult Americans. Osteoarthritis, or OA, is a painful joint disease that can place severe limits on daily activity and quality of life and that is a major contributor to disability and healthcare expenditures in the United States. In 2003, the total cost of all forms of arthritis was $128 billion—$81 billion in medical expenses and $47 billion in lost earnings. Nearly 1 in 2 individuals will have OA in their lifetimes.
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