Written by Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy Friday, 19 February 2010 00:00
“I applaud First Lady Michelle Obama for her efforts in raising national public awareness and tackling the epidemic of childhood obesity. I thank President Obama for establishing a Task Force on Childhood Obesity.
As a longtime nurse and the chairwoman of the Healthy Families and Communities Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over the child nutrition programs, I believe it is important that we examine practices which can help increase access to child nutrition programs and to more healthy foods for our children in schools. Given the current harsh financial realities for many families in my district and throughout the nation, many schools have an increasingly important role to play since they provide students with more than half of their food and nutrient intake on school days.
We have all told our children that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” Studies have proven that we are correct. Research has shown that children who regularly eat breakfast have better standardized test scores, better behavior, and are less hyperactive than children who skip breakfast. There is also a surplus of data that indicates that well-nourished students perform better throughout the day and are less likely to become obese. It makes sense because when you are hungry you are more likely to go for the quick fix of a candy bar or a bag of chips.
In addition to providing access to healthier food, it is important to increase opportunities for physical activity. Last year, I held a hearing during which we heard about a program developed by North Shore-LIJ Health System called “Activity Works.” This elementary school program focuses on increasing children’s daily physical activity through an integrated classroom approach to meet the needs of wellness policies and state physical education requirements.
We all know that well-nourished, physically active children learn better. And we also know that obesity is an epidemic. If we start to educate our kids early enough we can establish good, lifelong habits. I have also introduced legislation, the Food Marketing in Schools Assessment Act, which requires the secretary of education to conduct a national study on the extent and types of junk food marketed in our nation’s schools. I believe there is a correlation between the marketing of low-nutrition foods in our schools and the obesity epidemic.
We have our work cut out for us, and reauthorization of the school meals programs this year is a priority for me. But by taking a comprehensive approach to nutrition, our children, families and communities will all be healthier. I believe a healthy community is essential to our national security.”