Letter: Support re-authorizing the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act
Congress will be debating the reauthorization of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act in the coming weeks, so this year’s National Childhood Obesity Awareness month couldn’t be better timed. I applaud school districts across North Dakota for doing their part to combat childhood obesity, which is a major contributor to our state’s No. 1 killer: heart disease. By stepping up to the plate to meet the nutrition standards under the Healthy, Hunger- Free Kids Act, our schools are not only reducing the incidence of childhood obesity, but are helping kids to perform better in school.
Given that many children get 50 percent or more of their calories at school, making sure these foods are healthy is critical to their health and well-being now and in the future. That’s why I was so pleased that for the first time in a generation, the nutrition standards for foods served in schools were updated in 2010 to reflect the latest nutrition science. These standards for healthier school meals were based on recommendations from physicians and school nutrition experts. It came as no surprise when they recommended that kids should eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and less salt, sugar and fat.
I understand serving healthy food has had its challenges, however, the majority of schools support the new standards. A recent survey by the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project found that 70 percent of food service staff and school administrators at the elementary and middle school levels say that kids like the healthier meals. Right now, 100 percent of participating schools in North Dakota are successfully meeting these requirements. North Dakota should be proud of this accomplishment and this tremendous work should be celebrated, especially during this month.
During the reauthorization debate, I encourage Congress to protect the progress already made and to remember that this is ultimately about the health of our children. Our kids are depending upon them!
American Heart Association Volunteer