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TFAH Statement on First Lady Michelle Obama's Proposal to Ban Marketing of Junk Food and Sodas in Schools

WASHINGTON, Feb. 25, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following is a statement from Jeffrey Levi, PhD, executive director of Trust for America's Health (TFAH) on First Lady Michelle Obama's proposal to ban the marketing of junk food and sodas in schools.

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"Since First Lady Michelle Obama launched Let's Move! in February 2010, the nation has begun to see tangible gains in the fight against childhood obesity.

Today's proposal promises to be another historic event in the effort – to limit the marketing of foods and beverages with low nutritional value in schools.  The proposal would take a laudable step beyond the requirements of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which authorized the first update to nutrition standards for schools in more than a decade, and the first update to standards for school snacks and drinks in more than 30 years.

Millions of children eat millions of meals and snacks at school each year.  It's just common sense that if we support healthier options, we are helping them on the path to a healthier future.  The best strategy to lower obesity rates is to help our children establish healthier habits while they are young, including good nutrition and increased activity.  By limiting the marketing of junk food in schools, we can help even out that equation.

According to a Mission Readiness analysis, schools sell 400 billion calories in junk foods each year. And additional research shows that kids eat less of their lunch, consume more fat, take in fewer nutrients and gain weight when schools sell unhealthy snacks and drinks outside of meals. In fact, children and teens in states with strong laws restricting the sale of unhealthy snack foods and beverages in school gained less weight over a three-year period than those living in states with no such policies, according to an article in Pediatrics.

As part of the school wellness policy, the USDA plans to increase access to school lunches for children in need who attend high poverty schools. Also, the USDA will work to create school wellness policies by encouraging parents and others to help develop nutrition and physical activity standards – both hallmarks of the Let's Move! initiative.

Let's Move! has changed the national conversation around one of the biggest public health threats the nation has faced for the better.  Obesity is literally weighing us down – putting Americans at increased risk for developing serious health conditions, ranging from diabetes to some forms of cancer, and exponentially adding to our healthcare costs and limiting our productivity.

The First Lady's leadership and the common sense activities of the Let's Move! program are adding up – and benefitting our nation's kids.  

Recently, we've seen studies showing reductions in obesity rates in places as diverse as California, Mississippi, New York City, Anchorage and Philadelphia, and, last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that rates of obesity among preschool children from low-income families decreased in 18 states.  And, just today, CDC released new data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) finding a significant decline in obesity among children aged 2 to 5 years.

Also, the progress is not just among children, we've started to see leveling off of adult obesity rates after 30 years of rising rates.

That said, no one should think the work is close to finished. Obesity rates remain very high – which put Americans at increased risk for a range of serious health problems.  Even with the apparent stabilization of adult rates and signs of progress among childhood rates, the progress is uneven.  We have seen that progress can be made, but now we need to double down as we move forward.

We commend today's action and USDA for moving forward on implementing Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act requirements related to school wellness and food marketing – and urge USDA to take the next step to finalize the standards.

TFAH looks forward to continuing working with Let's Move!, USDA, industry and others to ensure all children have the opportunity to live happy, healthy and productive lives."

Trust for America's Health is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to saving lives by protecting the health of every community and working to make disease prevention a national priority. www.healthyamericans.org

SOURCE Trust for America's Health

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