Reducing Childhood Obesity and Malnutrition

February 12, 2010 at 7:49 pm Leave a comment

This week, I (Diana) was lucky enough to be on a conference call with Tom Vilsack, the Secretary of Agriculture, along with hundreds of other representatives of anti-hunger organizations, schools, and those concerned with child nutrition. The conference call, which detailed the Obama administration’s call to improve the Child Nutrition Act, came a day after the official launch of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign and two days after his speech at the National Press Club, where he insisted on eliminating “Pepsi, French fries and Snickers bars from the nation’s schools.”
 

Michelle Obama's Launches her Let's Move campaign. Photo Credit: Share Our Strength

Working for a program that deals with nutrition for low-income families, it has been fantastic to see the political will on the federal level to address the issues in our food system. Janet McLaughlin, director of Operation Frontline, was able to attend the First Lady’s announcement of Let’s Move, saying,

It might seem odd for an anti-hunger organization to be at an anti-obesity event. But there is a natural alignment. Hunger is, at its core, a health issue. Whether we call ourselves anti-hunger activists, health advocates, or anti-obesity campaigners, we are all working to ensure that kids eat the nutritious foods they need to lead active and healthy lives.

I believe our role as a nonprofit with a mission to “end hunger and poverty” is to use our efforts and influence to ensure that kids with the least get the most benefit from the Let’s Move campaign.

As I wrote in a previous post, the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act is a critical moment in improving school lunches and other federally-funded programs. In Vilsack’s statement with the press and on the conference call, he made certain priorities known – a “wish list” for what he would like to see in the new Child Nutrition Act:

  1. Allocate more resources to ensure that all children who qualify for federal programs through the act (including school lunches and breakfasts) actually benefit from them
  2. Increase participation in schools offering breakfast and lunch programs
  3. Improve nutritional quality of meals offered through schools
  4. Reach children through non-school days
  5. Improve the message of quality and nutrition in schools (such as the items found in vending machines)
  6. Encourage schools to implement wellness policies, which promote physical activity
  7. Provide more information for parents and children about the meals being served in school
  8. Strenthen the link between local farmers and schools

Photo Credit: Let's Move

The message offered both by Vilsack and the First Lady is one that is both refreshing and inspiring for those of us who work to eradicate childhood hunger. I feel that I can tentatively say – Yes, they finally get it. I sincerely hope that this new campaign is successful!

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USDA Statement

This material was partially funded by the State of Michigan with federal funds from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by way of the Michigan Nutrition Network at the Michigan Fitness Foundation. This work is supported in part by the Michigan Department of Human Services, under contract number ADMIN-10-99011. Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the Michigan Fitness Foundation or the Michigan Department of Human Services. In accordance with Federal law and USDA policy, these institutions are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, religion, political beliefs or disability. To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call (800) 795-3272 (voice) or (202) 720- 6382 (TTY). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program provides nutrition assistance to people with low income. It can help you buy nutritious foods for a better diet. To find out more contact the toll free Michigan Food Assistance Program Hotline at (855) ASK-MICH. Space-Limited USDA/DHS/MNN Credit Statement This material was partially funded by the State of Michigan with federal funds from the United States Department of Agriculture Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by way of the Michigan Nutrition Network at the Michigan Fitness Foundation. These institutions are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, religion, political beliefs or disability. People who need help buying nutritious food for a better diet call the toll free Michigan Food Assistance Program Hotline: (855) ASK-MICH.

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