First Lady Michelle Obama kicked her campaign against childhood obesity into high gear today by unveiling the White House Task Force’s 120-page report of recommendations on how to stop the epidemic, available on the government-run website Let’s Move.
The 70 bullet points range from fairly simple and well-known ideas such as maintaining a healthy pregnancy weight and the importance of breastfeeding, to “the sure-to-be controversial, such as boosting the quantity of fruits and vegetables grown in the United States,” reports the Washington Post.
According to the Associated Press, “One in three American children is overweight or obese, putting them at higher risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and other illnesses. Obesity is even more prevalent among black and Hispanic children,” so no doubt Mrs. Obama takes this issue personally.
The AP stresses that “the report and its recommendations are advisory,” but there is related legislation on the table. The Obama administration has asked for $10 billion towards the initiative, but the “Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act… (only) allocates an extra $4.5 billion for childhood nutrition programs” and “is the first time since 1973 that Congress has increased the federal reimbursement rate for public school meals,” per the Washington Post.
The AP notes the report includes, among other things, “incentives to attract supermarkets to underserved areas; and an effort to get pediatricians to make a habit of calculating their patients’ body mass index, a height-weight comparison used to measure fat.” This will certainly help residents in poor areas of New York City and similar metropolitan areas, where good produce can be hard to find – especially at an affordable price – and it’s not unusual to see toddlers in poor neighborhoods eating Cheetos and drinking a can of Coke for breakfast.
Jane Black of the Washington Post gets to the heart of the matter when she says though the “bill has been passed by the Senate Agriculture Committee… it is languishing thanks to a crowded congressional schedule.” She continues:
And although administration officials keep saying they are hoping for the full $10 billion, their effort to find the rest of that money is not so apparent. If the White House isn’t willing to push hard here, you have to wonder whether or how it is going to take on really tough questions such as subsidies for fruit and vegetable growers…. Fruit and vegetable subsidies have no strong support from Democrats or Republicans on the congressional agriculture committees, who mostly represent heartland states that grow subsidized corn, soybeans and cotton.
If you’ve seen Food Inc., you know how scary the idea of subsidized corn and soybeans is, and how the filmmakers suggest that those subsidized foods are in fact the root of all the cheap (read: readily available, affordable) junk food, hence the chips/soda toddler breakfast I mentioned earlier, and the childhood obesity epidemic the government is currently trying to curtail. It’s clear all areas of government need to be on the same page before any real progress is made, and whether or not that will happen remains to be seen. Certainly, though, this is a healthy start.