WASHINGTON, D.C. | May 14, 2009 -
Today we are here to discuss childhood obesity and child nutrition programs.
Over the last ten years, obesity in the United States has been increasing at a staggering rate. The most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that more than 72 million adults, or over one-third of the United States population, are obese. In addition, 17 percent of children ages 2-19 are considered overweight. Overweight children are more likely to become overweight adults and have a greater risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and certain cancers. Because obese individuals are estimated to live 5-7 years less than their healthier counterparts, it is assumed that our current generation of children will actually have a lower life expectancy than their parents.
A number of initiatives have been created to combat this obesity epidemic. The food industry and trade organizations have joined together to phase-in healthier products and smaller portion sizes. Other groups have been promoting increased physical activity for children and adults alike.
The 2004 reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act required school districts to implement local wellness policies in all schools. The objective of the local wellness plan is to change students’ eating habits while simultaneously encouraging increased activity. To meet this goal, the plan must include nutrition guidelines, nutrition education, physical activity goals, and school based wellness activities. Many schools have incorporated creative ways to meet their wellness plan goals. Today, we will hear from Ms. Susie Byrnes, founder of the Byrnes Health Education Center in my Congressional District. Many of the local schools bring students to the Byrnes Center to teach students about healthy eating practices as part of their local wellness plans.
There are a variety of parties that are responsible for helping address the issue of childhood obesity. Here at the federal level, we administer the school breakfast and lunch programs, and therefore have a responsibility to ensure that foods provided by these programs are nutritional and healthy. Local school districts also play a role as they make decisions about the activities that take place on their campus. I believe, however, that parents have the most important role– as the primary caretaker of their child’s well-being - to ensure that their children remain active and consume nutritious meals.
I am pleased to be joined by such a distinguished panel of witnesses and am looking forward to hearing all of the testimony. As we move forward to reauthorize the Child Nutrition Act, we must keep the goal of reducing childhood obesity in mind while remaining conscious of the impacts of new mandates on our local school districts.
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