Legislative-Briefs-Government-actions-on-obesity

Legislative Briefs: Government actions on obesity

Congress dismisses upgrade to school-food standards
The final version of a spending bill from Congress will block or delay efforts by federal food officials to limit the use of potatoes and increase whole grains in school lunches, among other new standards.

That means pizza and French fries will continue to be counted as vegetables.

Some lawmakers and school districts have argued in favor of keeping school food standards status quo because the proposed changes, drafted by the United States Department of Agriculture earlier this year, would be too costly for schools to implement.

Meanwhile, nutrition advocates and a group of retired generals promoting healthier school lunches criticized the spending bill, saying it would keep schools from offering a wider array of vegetables.

The USDA's school lunch proposal is based on 2009 recommendations by the Institute of Medicine, the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the proposed changes are necessary to reduce childhood obesity and future health care costs.

To contact federal lawmakers about this and other issues, visit www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml.

State sets goal to reduce childhood obesity
Louisiana will reduce its rate of childhood obesity by 20 percent, from 29 percent to 23 percent, by 2020. That's the goal set by state health officials and researchers at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge in November.

Health Secretary Bruce Greenstein teamed with Pennington to come up with other goals that will need to be implemented through various stakeholders, including governments, as well as individuals.

The goals were announced in conjunction with a release of Pennington's annual report, Louisiana’s Report Card on Physical Activity and Health for Children and Youth. This is the fourth year Pennington has released such a report.

Other goals for 2020 listed in the report are:

*Increase the number of Louisiana adolescents who perform federally recognized levels of aerobic physical activity from the current 23 percent to 32 percent.

*Decrease the rate of high school students who go above the recommended screen exposure time for television and computers from 40 percent to 24 percent.

*Increase the number of high school students who eat enough fruits and vegetables by 40 percent. Currently 9.7 percent of high school students eat three or more servings of vegetables per day, and 3.5 percent eat four or more fruit servings per day.

*Increase access to playgrounds, parks and facilities for physical activity for all children under 18 years old by 20 percent. Currently, 65.6 percent of children in Louisiana live near a park or playground.

To view the report card, visit www.pbrc.edu/report_card.

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