Casey Applauds Childhood Obesity Task Force Action Plan

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) today applauded the release of the Childhood Obesity Task Force Action Plan: Solving the Problem of Childhood Obesity Within a Generation.  First Lady Michelle Obama joined Domestic Policy Council Director Melody Barnes to unveil the plan, designed to harness public and private resources to promote healthy eating and exercise.

“Child obesity and poor nutrition can lead to a host of health and developmental problems for children as they grow older,” said Senator Casey.  “I applaud the work that First Lady Obama and the Childhood Obesity Task Force has undertaken.  I will thoroughly review these recommendations and look forward to working toward addressing these issues as the Senate considers the Child Nutrition Act, the renewing of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and other legislation.”

Senator Casey has introduced a number of bills aimed at increasing access to critical nutrition programs for the nation’s most vulnerable children and families including: the Summer Food Service Rural Expansion Act to increase summer meals for students living in hard-to-reach rural areas; the Emergency Food Assistance Act to leverage the funding of food banks and the National Hunger Relief Act to help federal nutrition programs better keep pace with food cost increases.  Senator Casey also introduced legislation to use the innovative Philadelphia universal school meals program model as a national program to feed children, reduce bureaucracy and save money by creating alternatives to the standard paper application process and meal claiming procedures for schools serving concentrations of low-income children during breakfast and lunch.

Senator Casey has also supported programs that allow schools and other food assistance providers to provide nourishing meals not only during school, but also after-school, on weekends and school breaks and during the summer.  He has been a strong advocate for establishing nutrition standards so that a la carte food items and vending machines do not undermine the balanced nutrition provided to kids in school lunch.

The action plan defines solving the problem of childhood obesity in a generation as returning to a childhood obesity rate of just 5 percent by 2030, which was the rate before childhood obesity first began to rise in the late 1970s.  

In total, the report presents a series of 70 specific recommendations, many of which can be implemented right away.  Summarizing them broadly, they include:

•    Getting children a healthy start on life, with good prenatal care for their parents; support for breastfeeding; adherence to limits on “screen time”; and quality child care settings with nutritious food and ample opportunity for young children to be physically active.
•    Empowering parents and caregivers with simpler, more actionable messages about nutritional choices based on the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans; improved labels on food and menus that provide clear information to help parents make healthy choices for children; reduced marketing of unhealthy products to children; and improved health care services, including BMI measurement for all children.
•    Providing healthy food in schools, through improvements in federally-supported school lunches and breakfasts; upgrading the nutritional quality of other foods sold in schools; and improving nutrition education and the overall health of the school environment.
•    Improving access to healthy, affordable food, by eliminating “food deserts” in urban and rural America; lowering the relative prices of healthier foods; developing or reformulating food products to be healthier; and reducing the incidence of hunger, which has been linked to obesity.
•    Getting children more physically active, through quality physical education, recess, and other opportunities in and after school; addressing aspects of the “built environment” that make it difficult for children to walk or bike safely in their communities; and improving access to safe parks, playgrounds, and indoor and outdoor recreational facilities.