A big step toward child health
Childhood obesity remains one of the biggest health challenges facing this state, with nearly one-third of children in New Hampshire obese or overweight – a condition putting them at risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other chronic diseases.The Child Nutrition Bill would allocate $4.5 billion over a decade to support school cafeterias and introduce healthier nutrition standards for food sold in schools, including in vending machines.This legislation is a great step toward fighting childhood obesity. We, as a society, have a responsibility to our children to give them access to healthy choices in our school systems and help reduce the incidence of childhood obesity by increasing physical activity and proper nutrition where children spend most of their day.HEAL coalitions representing 47 cities and towns in New Hampshire have already begun to address this important issue. Our community partners have worked in collaboration to provide healthier choices in schools, including setting up Farm to School programs, limiting soda and other sugar beverages during school hours and providing safer pedestrian access to schools.The child nutrition bill currently before Congress contains provisions that will improve children’s access to nutritious meals, enhance the quality of meals both in and out of schools and child care settings, establish nutrition standards for all foods and beverages sold in schools and strengthen nutrition education.Currently, the legislation has yet to pass the House of Representatives, and we risk missing the opportunity to improve these programs before they expire September 30.On behalf of HEAL and our local Healthy Eating Active Living partners, I urge passage of the Child Nutrition Bill before these programs expire.Terry Johnson is director of Healthy Eating Active Living NH. For more information, visit healnh.org.