Statistics have shown that, 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% of four to five year old children are overweight, nearly double the percentage of 20 years ago.
“Clearly, the issue of childhood obesity has reached dramatic proportions,” said Senator Saland. “I believe most parents do their best to teach healthy eating habits at home. The availability of high fat and high sugar lunches and snacks in school, however, sends the wrong message to children -- that nutritious food is what they have to eat at home, but they can eat unhealthy food in school. Schools should not be part of the problem, but part of the solution,” Saland continued.
Senator Saland’s bill provides a mechanism to establish nutritional guidelines for school districts, including additional funding, to provide students with healthy choices. By offering food and beverages which meet certain nutritional standards, students purchasing meals and snacks in school are choosing from healthy selections. Additionally, the bill encourages school districts to purchase fresh produce and dairy products locally by increasing a spending cap allowed for such purchases. The bill also directs the Commissioner of Education to conduct an assessment of physical education standards and instruction in grades kindergarten through twelve.
“Offering nutritious foods in schools is a step in the right direction to counter what many have termed a childhood obesity epidemic. 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,” Saland added.
The bill has been sent to the Assembly for consideration.