Posted on Tue, June 01, 2010 by Intern
2 Comments | Categories: Food Justice, News, Current Events, Policy, School Food, Take Action,
by intern Christine Binder
Back in February, Michelle Obama unveiled Let’s Move!, her campaign to end childhood obesity. As part of this effort, President Obama established the Task Force on Childhood Obesity, whose job it was to develop a roadmap to tackle the problem. This May, after three months of research, including input from 12 federal agencies and 2,500 submissions from the public, the Task Force released their plan outlining benchmarks, strategies, and actions to reduce the rate of obesity in children to 5% by 2030.
The 124-page report, entitled “Solving the Problem of Childhood Obesity Within a Generation,” includes 70 recommendations for actions for both the public and private sectors to take. The recommendations fall under the four key areas of concern Mrs. Obama announced earlier in the year: Healthy Choices (Empowering Parents and Caregivers), Healthier Schools, Physical Activity, and Access to Affordable Healthy Food. The Task Force added a 5th area of concern, Early Childhood, because research shows that around one in five children are overweight or obese by the time they reach age six, and over half of obese children become overweight before their second birthday. Here’s the full report, and here’s an excellent short summary of the recommendations.
Like many other public health professionals, I am optimistic about this report, but cautiously so. It is clear that when it comes to approaching the obesity epidemic, the Obama Administration gets it. Most of the Task Force’s recommendations focus on creating an environment where the healthy choice is the easy choice instead of the difficult one. Jane Black of the Washington Post writes, “The new report has some serious policy implications. Yet the administration so far has shied away from getting its hands dirty in political and legislative fights in this particular arena.” The big question is, does the government have the willpower to do what needs to be done?
Marketing to children is a great example. One of the report’s recommendations is that the food industry independently develops both a definition of “marketing” and voluntary standards for what foods can be marketed to children. Hmm. Marion Nestle shares my skepticism, noting that self-regulation has not worked in the past. The report does state that if voluntary regulation efforts do not work, the FCC “could consider revisiting and modernizing rules on commercial time during children’s programming.” And what about school lunches? Despite the report’s clear recommendations and the call of several hundred thousand Americans for healthier school food, the Child Nutrition Act languishes in Congress, waiting for adequate funding and the legislature’s vote. Let’s hope that they follow through.