Senator Farley Reports Nys Senate Passes Healthy Schools Legislation To Help Fight Childhood Obesity

Hugh T. Farley

May 25, 2007

Recently, the New York State Senate passed legislation to establish nutrition guidelines for school districts to follow in order to provide students with healthy food choices. The Childhood Healthy Access to Meals Program (CHAMP) will provide children with more nutritious foods at school in an effort to reduce the growing crisis of childhood obesity and other children’s health issues.

Statistics show that childhood obesity has become a public health crisis. CHAMP is a great way to encourage children to make healthy eating a way of life in and out of school. We may be able to avoid future health care costs if we start addressing this problem now -- healthier children become healthier adults.

Proper nutrition and healthy eating habits are critically important building blocks for our young children to learn. All too often, it is very tempting to eat fast foods or sweets supplied by school vending machines, but a poor diet can lead to very serious health consequences down the road. If signed into law, this legislation will provide our children with increased access to healthier food options, which will benefit their health and physical well-being. Better nutrition will also help students with their academic performance.

Statistics gathered at both state and federal levels indicate that childhood obesity has dramatically increased in recent years. Nationwide, the number of adolescents who are overweight has tripled since 1980 and the prevalence among younger children has more than doubled. Most alarming is that before entering school, 8 percent of four to five year old children are overweight, nearly double the percentage of 20 years ago.

The CHAMP initiative provides a mechanism to establish nutritional guidelines for school districts to reinforce sensible nutritious choices, reflecting what is being taught to students in the classroom. By offering food and beverages which meet certain nutritional standards, parents may be assured that students purchasing meals and snacks in school are choosing from healthy selections.

This legislation would allow school districts to purchase fresh produce and dairy products from local producers by increasing a spending cap allowed for such purchases. The bill also encourages the Department of Education to review both the nutritional and physical education curriculum to encourage additional physical activity and healthier habits for children inside and outside of school.