African-American children suffer from obesity at a greater rate than any other group of children in the United States. There are many complex factors that contribute to this epidemic. But one factor, junk foods sold in schools, is being tackled by moms and dads nationwide. The USDA may soon issue nutritional guidelines on food sold in vending machines and à la carte lines. And a study by Kids' Safe & Healthful Foods Project, a joint project of the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation shows that parents nationwide broadly support the creation of strong guidelines.
WHY? Consider this: 40 percent of students buy and eat snack foods at school in a typical day. When schools sell unhealthy snacks and drinks outside of meals, it can cause kids to eat less of their lunch, consume more fat, take in fewer nutrients and gain weight. Today, more than 23 million children and teens are overweight or obese.
Moms everywhere are speaking out and sharing their stories about what they are seeing in school cafeterias:
A few months back, I was at my son's school to pick him up for an appointment and I happened to wander into the cafeteria to look for him. I was horrified by what I saw -- a separate junk food stand with a long line of kids waiting to buy chips, sweetened drinks, and even hot salty pretzels! No wonder millions of children in the United States are overweight or obese!
- Christina, DC - MomsRising
The good news is that it doesn't have to be this way and small changes can make a big difference. A new study found that kids in California are cutting tens of thousands of calories from their diets per year, one bag of chips or bottle of soda at a time.
How is California doing it?
A few years ago, the California state legislature put in place some of the strongest guidelines in the country on snack food sold in schools. Results of the junk food ban shows that the 158 calories that kids save per day adds up over time -- accounting for 15 pounds per year. California has proven that establishing good nutritional standards works to reduce the empty calories that kids consume. This is great news for moms and dads because children who are overweight or obese are more likely to suffer from type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
The best news is that the children in California are not making up for the changes in school by eating more junk food outside of school. Those calories are gone for good.
More states are working to pass laws that create similar guidelines. Last year, Massachusetts passed strong regulations that go into effect this coming school year. Twenty-nine states in all have some sort of guidelines on snack foods sold in schools. That leaves parents and children in the remaining 21 states on their own.
It's time for federal regulations to give every child healthier options at school. Parents and community members everywhere now have the opportunity to impact children's health through pushing the USDA to implement strong national guidelines for junk food.
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