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NEA, White House Work to End Childhood Obesity

As with most things having to do with the hard work of schooling of the near 50 million of the nation’s K-12 students, food service workers and physical education teachers are at the heart of this action. A recent survey of NEA affiliate ESP local leaders shows almost two-thirds reporting their school system have started to offer healthy, nutritious meals to students for breakfast and lunch to combat childhood obesity.

That’s a good point and works hand-in-hand with NEA’s support of First Lady Michelle Obama’s recently launched effort to combat and eliminate childhood obesity called “Let’s Move!”  Her aim is to give parents the support they need, provide healthier food in schools, help kids to be more physically active, and make healthy, affordable food available in every part of the country. In February, when the Let’s Move initiative was announced, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel sent a letter of support to Mrs. Obama expressing his support and pride that NEA members can help do many things to make this a success. Undaunted by a blizzard, NEA was on-hand the next day, February 9 th, when President Obama launched an intergovernmental task force tasked with a 90 day deadline to come up with a plan addressing ending childhood hunger and obesity in a generation.

In March, NEA’s work to make sure member interests were heard during the mark-ups and debates for the Child Nutrition Act reauthorization, Senate Bill [SB] 1650.

NEA believes nutritional standards and professional standards need addressing, as well as increased funding for school meals and universal access. Having been passed out of the Senate Agriculture Committee, it now heads to the Senate floor. NEA members are asked and encouraged to review the material online and then contact their Senator to urge passage. After the Senate the work will shift to the U.S. House of Representatives, where more contacts will be needed.

Moving back to the President’s Task Force on Childhood Obesity… When the Inter-Agenc y Task Force requested ideas on how they could ensure access to healthy affordable food, increase physical activities in schools and communities, provide healthier food in schools and empower parents with information and tools to make great choices for themselves and their families, NEA and NEA HIN recommended that the government must:

  1. Provide adequate funding to ensure healthy meals, including maintaining adequate reimbursement rates for school meals, and providing an adequate budget for preparation of healthy meals either at the school site or district level site. There must also be funding at the  federal, state, and local levels to continue physical education programs and to support  affordable public recreation outlets in all communities
  2. Create sustainability by educating and providing necessary resources and training to the school workforce who will impact long term change and by providing the necessary infrastructure.
  3. Provide technical expertise and assistance to practitioners at the local level.
  4. Engage in a national media campaign that will provide a visible platform for this effort.
  5. Promote cross-agency collaboration at all levels.
  6. Improve infrastructures (such as school kitchens, food delivery systems, playground equipment and recreation facilities.)

The Inter-Agency’s public and private partners returned to the White House in early April to outline the issue in depth and make recommendations on ‘doable’ concerns. The issues NEA came to the table with, such as increased funding in the Child Nutrition Act for worker training and a reimbursable meal rate, made it to the top five. Read more about what the US Department of Agriculture and its partners are doing.

Check on all of the USDA actions, programs and information.   

We will continue to update the progress of the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act and the work of the Let’s Move and USDA. You are welcome to stay atop of their actions by visiting their Web sites.

Also — for updates and activities visit

http://www.letsmove.gov/

http://www.fns.usda.gov/fns/

NEA legislative action on child nutrition

NEA Health Information Network

Other Web sites of interest

http://www.pbs.org/kcet/tavissmiley/voices/2010/04/what-to-do-about-childhood-obesity.html

Action for Healthy Kids