Our Children's Health: Fighting Childhood Obesity

Good news from Massachusetts to help control the child obesity epidemic:  a pioneering effort to ensure that our children get a healthier school lunch. The School Nutrition Bill was passed in the Massachusetts Senate last week, 37-0 after being approved by the House, 152-4.

One out of three American youth are overweight or obese, putting them at higher risk of developing diabetes, asthma, heart disease, depression and low self-esteem. Poor nutrition also reduces children’s ability to learn. Of course, many factors contribute to the child obesity epidemic. But improving school food is one of the largest structural changes we can make, with the potential to enormously influence early eating patterns for the better and educate children about what's good for their bodies and their community.

How will the Massachusetts School Nutrition Bill make it easier for children to eat mindfully and healthfully during the school day?

  • The state’s department of public health will set healthy standards for snacks and beverages sold in vending machines, school stores, and cafeteria ala carte lines. Out go the sodas and candy bars; in their place, water and fresh fruit.
  • Schools will be able to more easily purchase fruits and vegetables directly from local farms. Our students will get fresher produce, and our farmers will get fresh business—a true win-win.
  • Scattershot efforts won’t turn the tide on this epidemic. So the state will set up a commission on childhood obesity and develop a coordinated statewide plan.

For more information, see the Massachusetts Public Health Association’s fact sheet on the bill.

Let us learn from Massachusetts.  We can have similar school nutrition bills in every state so that children can develop healthy eating habits.  Here are some useful tools that can help us educate ourselves, create awareness in our communities, and advocate for change at the local and federal level: 

  • A comprehensive Community Policy Change Plan  that details the steps that Massachusetts took to gather support for, and pass, the School Nutrition Bill. We can copy this process across the country!
  • Healthy Schools Campaign Template Letter. You can automatically send this to your US Senator and Representative to ask that they reauthorize the Child Nutrition Act.
  • The Better School Food's wellness policy section offers community rallying techniques and tips for working effectively with your local schools.
  • Looking for a forum to brainstorm and discuss issues? Check out the Healthy Schools Campaign Blog .

I invite you to take a moment today to consider being an agent of change to safeguard the future of America. You have the power to create positive change right now. Need further inspiration? See chapter 8 of Savor, where Thay and I give several examples of how a single person was able to transform his or her environment, ultimately improving the health and lives of us all.

Every one of us can be an agent of change—and our collective action will change the world!

All the best,
Lilian

Comments

Now if only Mass would start cooking their own food offering a vegetarian option and actually have an actual menu the parents can look at and see what is going to be served- i know sometimes thats not possible but i don't think the monthly menu that gets sent home to me for the boston schools is very accurate. A GREAT step in the right direction! Don't stop here get the salt and junk meat burgers and pizza out as well- or once a week or offer qualty meats and meals for our kids! They are worth it and the health care savings will soon follow!

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