The news is not good. In the past 30 years, obesity in this country has more than doubled among children and more than tripled among teenagers.
As these rates continue to rise, we are putting an entire generation at risk for serious health conditions like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and even heart disease. Inactivity along with the overconsumption of unhealthy foods and sugar sweetened beverages is a leading cause. Clearly more emphasis must be placed on teaching youngsters how to eat healthy and stay active.
Schools need to be part of the solution. Senators Orrin Hatch and Bob Bennett and Representative Jim Matheson can help by urging Congress to reauthorize the Child Nutrition Act this year to improve nutrition in school meals, remove junk food from vending machines and strengthen school wellness policies. Not only will this improve children's health, but research shows healthy children learn more effectively and are higher academic achievers.
In Utah, efforts by local school districts and community partners such as the American Heart Association, Action for Healthy Kids, the Utah Department of Health and the Office of Education have assisted schools in improving food offerings and improving physical education programs through hard work and innovative programs such as Gold Medal Schools and Power Up. Initiatives such as these are an uphill battle without the support of guidelines and resources. To return obesity prevalence to 5 percent of the youth population will take much more than we are doing now and this bill will help the currently exclusive programs to reach all Utah children and teens.
The future of today's youth is in our hands. Congress must pass strong legislation now that will give kids access to nutritious meals and more opportunities for physical activity during the school day. Utah children are counting on Hatch, Bennett and Matheson to support swift passage of the Child Nutrition Act before the opportunity to make real changes this year passes.