Childhood Obesity Addressed by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act

Lunch at Next Step Public Charter School

Here is the goal, as stated by President Barack Obama:

[… W]hen our kids walk into the lunch room, we want to be sure that they’re getting balanced, nutritious meals that they need to succeed in the classroom.

Obviously, children who are malnourished and hungry can’t make the most of their classroom experience because they can’t keep their minds on it, and, at the organic level, inadequate nutrition even affects the brain’s ability to function.

And, as we have seen from the revelations offered by one of the Weigh2Rock discussion-group kids, different but equally obstructive problems confront the child who is overfed and obese. In a recent Childhood Obesity News post, we quoted a 14-year-old Amanda on the difficulty of concentrating in school when feeling smothered by fat, and distracted by cravings for the hyper-palatable foods waiting at home.

Hopefully, both the obese and the undernourished children will benefit from the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, signed into law by the President on December 13. In addition to watching out for the wellbeing of kids who don’t eat enough, and kids who eat too much of the wrong things, this legislation increases access to the existing school meal programs by admitting more children.

Journalist J. Richard of AOL News outlines the basic facts of the matter:

In short, the new law sets nutritional standards for all food offered in schools — including food served in cafeterias, vending machines and stores — increases spending per meal and enrolls about 115,000 more children in school lunch programs.

Some people are unhappy because the increased amount of money needed has been subtracted from the foodstamp program. So children from the impoverished families will have access to more and better food at school, while the menu at home will be even more scanty. But the President says he will work with Congress to restore those funds.

Apparently, there are no built-in time limits for improvement. The U.S. Department of Agriculture will be working with neighborhoods, school districts, and states. Richard says:

The White House does not offer an exact time frame for the legislation to take effect.

The end of childhood obesity is of course a dream of First Lady Michelle Obama, who marked out children’s health and nutrition as her primary area of concern right from the start. At the signing ceremony, she gave a speech about the importance of good nutrition and especially the importance of no child going to school hungry.

She also talked about the increasing danger of such medical problems as diabetes, and the concern expressed by military leaders because, currently, one out of every four young people would be unqualified for military service because they are overweight or obese.

Of course, there are adverse reactions, like a random example garnered from the Comments section of a piece by Sam Youngman, where someone wrote in to remark that Mrs. Obama herself is not in such great shape.

Others note that the childhood obesity problem could be fixed by more physical activity in schools, and someone attributes this to a fear of litigation, saying,

The real reason kids are obese is because schools have tried to make the playground absolutely safe. Tag, running, football, dodge ball, or any physical activity that might incur a skinned knee is discouraged for fear of lawsuits.

Photo Note: Photographer Ezra Gregg says,

Fresh Start now provides contract food service for Next Step Public Charter School in Columbia Heights… Our approach is unique, combining school nutrition with job creation and investment in growers. When a school like Next Step contracts with Fresh Start, it allows us to hire graduates of our Culinary Job Training Program to cook from scratch on-site at the cafeteria.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act: 5 Questions Answered About the New Law,” AOLNews.com, 12/13/10
Source: “Michelle Obama has new warning on obesity,” Politico.com, 12/13/10
Source: “President signs Michelle Obama-backed childhood nutrition act into law,” TheHill.com, 12/13/10
Image by DC Central Kitchen (Ezra Gregg), used under its Creative Commons license.

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