Home Opinion Congress looks to fight child obesity

Congress looks to fight child obesity


By Amanda Lankheet
Collegiate Staff Writer

America has a problem with fat.  We eat too much of it and we’re carrying too much of it around our middles and thighs.  According to the New York Times, “About two-thirds of the nation’s adults and a third of its children are overweight, double the rates in 1980.”  Who cares?  Who wants to take this issue on?  Evidently, Congress is willing to take action.

NPR reports that the House of Representatives passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act Thursday December 2, 2010. The Senate had passed its version of the bill in August of 2010.  The Washington Post reported:  “The

Illustration by Rashard Johnson

Senate bill changes the school food landscape in ways that are all positive,” said Michael F. Jacobson, the executive director of Center for Science in the Public Interest, a public health advocacy group in Washington. “Put simply, it will get junk food out of, and put more healthy food into, America’s schools.” What will this legislation mean for our kids?  Will it make a difference?

The controversial Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act will put limits on what schools can and cannot serve in the lunchroom. The effort to ban candy, sugary beverages and fried foods supports Michelle Obama’s campaign “to fight obesity and hunger.”

Obama posted on her website that she is “thrilled” that the bill passed, and says that the $4.5 billion bill is “a groundbreaking piece of bipartisan legislation that will significantly improve the quality of meals that children receive at school and will play an integral role in our efforts to combat childhood obesity.”

A new dimension was added to school food services with the enactment of the Child Nutrition Act of 1966.  Posted on the USDA website, the purpose of the Child Nutrition Act was to provide “a measure to safeguard the health and well-being of the Nation’s children, and to encourage the domestic consumption of agricultural and other foods,” congress stated “in recognition of the demonstrated relationship between food and good nutrition and the capacity of children to develop and learn.”

Over the last 45 years, the National School Lunch Program has gone terribly wrong.  The program was designed to provide low-income children with nutritional lunches that didn’t cost a lot.  The idea that kids would feed their bodies well while feeding their minds was a worthy cause.  What happened?  The Program now allows kids to purchase and consume junk food in their school cafeterias. If we believe that we are what we eat, this is a real problem for the next generation of Americans.  The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act could be a significant step in the right direction.

Representative Jim McGovern, Democrat of Massachusetts, who is co-chairman of the House Hunger Caucus, had this to say: “hunger and obesity are two sides of the same coin. Highly processed, empty-calorie foods are less expensive than fresh nutritious foods.”

While it is true that highly processed, empty-calories foods are lower in cost than fresh nutritious foods, highly processed foods are shown to contribute to health risks. Spending less on food programs now will result in higher health care costs down the road.

Michelle is not the only Obama in the White House who should be concerned about this issue.  President Obama, as Commander in Chief, has to be worried about the population of volunteer military forces deemed “too fat to fight.”

CNN.com reported that 12,000 young men and women in the military are dismissed every year, because they do not pass their physical fitness test. The military reported that in 2007, 61% of active duty personnel were above the ideal weight.

This reality is costly on several fronts.  America has thousands of fighting forces deployed overseas.  How can we afford to lose 12,000 troops a year because they’re too fat to fulfill their physical duties?  Also, the 61 percent of personnel that are overweight are costing the taxpayers more in health care costs.

So as Congress is looking into what we are feeding our children, what are we doing to help fight the fat in our armed forces? The passage of new legislation is a great start to fighting fat at the childhood level, but the nutrition of military personnel needs to be reevaluated.

When the government gets involved in what America’s kids and fighting forces eat, the government must do the right thing.  The right thing is also what makes sense.  Eating nutritious foods leads to better performance, a healthier population, and lower health care costs.  This is a winning and worthy strategy and one that taxpayers must support.

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