The childhood obesity epidemic has reached critical mass as a social ill, a policy imperative and a health crisis. No longer can anyone dismiss efforts to protect kids from unhealthy foods as the whine from a "nanny state" or the crusade of ivory tower do-gooders.
The evidence is overwhelming. The problem has gotten so bad so fast and the dangers it presents to our kids so dire, that we have no choice but to take swift and decisive action to reverse the childhood obesity crisis right now.
Unfortunately, we haven't had a national plan to reverse the epidemic and to make the choices--both easy and hard--that will ensure the health of America's kids.
On Tuesday, The White House Childhood Obesity Task Force revealed a blueprint to address a crisis that threatens to make this generation of kids the first to live shorter and sicker lives than their parents. The report puts everything on the table: taxes on sugar sweetened beverages, prenatal efforts to prevent childhood obesity, improving school lunches, and dozens of other solutions.
First Lady Michelle Obama -- who is leading the White House's anti-obesity effort--delivered the same clear, unequivocal message for policymakers and industry that she delivered to sedentary young people: "Let's Move!"
As a demonstration of the thoughtfulness and depth of this proposal, the White House dedicated six pages to the problem of "food deserts," communities where many families live miles from groceries that supply healthy foods like fresh fruits and vegetables.
More than 6 million kids live in food deserts, meaning the food realistically available to their families are at places like 7-11s or gas stations, where the "fruits" are Slurpees and the "meat" is beef jerky.
Food deserts are part of the reason that the epicenter of this crisis is rural America. In fact, half of all rural kids are overweight or obese--20 percent more than the national average.
The White House report outlines policies that can end food deserts, such as helping corner stores stock healthy, affordable food and bringing farmers markets and fruit stands to these remote communities.
There is no single policy that can end the childhood obesity epidemic. Instead, childhood obesity stems from a large series of specific, inter-connected problems that require equally specific, inter-connected solutions.
The White House has presented us with a blueprint for a healthier future. Now it's time for all of us to put down the bag of chips and get off the couch to make this blueprint a reality.
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