First Lady Michelle Obama joined members of the Childhood Obesity Task Force to unveil its action plan: Solving the Problem of Childhood Obesity Within a Generation. The plan provides "goals, benchmarks, and measurable outcomes that will help us tackle the childhood obesity epidemic one child, one family, and one community at a time," Obama said.
In February, Obama launched the Let's Move! campaign to solve the childhood obesity epidemic within a generation. As part of this effort, President Barack Obama established the Task Force on Childhood Obesity to develop and implement an interagency plan that details a coordinated strategy, identifies key benchmarks, and outlines an action plan to solve the problem of childhood obesity within a generation.
The action plan defines solving the problem of childhood obesity as returning to a childhood obesity rate of just 5 percent by 2030, which was the rate before childhood obesity first began to rise in the late 1970s. In total, the report presents a series of 70 specific recommendations, many of which can be implemented immediately. The recommendations include:
- Empowering parents and caregivers with simpler, more actionable messages about nutritional choices based on the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans; improved labels on food and menus that provide clear information to help parents make healthy choices for children; reduced marketing of unhealthy products to children; and improved health care services, including BMI measurement for all children.
- Providing healthy food in schools, through improvements in federally supported school lunches and breakfasts; upgrading the nutritional quality of other foods sold in schools; and improving nutrition education and the overall health of the school environment.
- Improving access to healthy, affordable food, by eliminating "food deserts" in urban and rural America; lowering the relative prices of healthier foods; developing or reformulating food products to be healthier; and reducing the incidence of hunger, which has been linked to obesity.
- Getting children more physically active, through quality physical education, recess, and other opportunities in and after school; addressing aspects of the "built environment" that make it difficult for children to walk or bike safely in their communities; and improving access to safe parks, playgrounds, and indoor and outdoor recreational facilities.
Like the Let's Move! initiative, the Task Force report recognizes that achieving the goal will require strong partnerships with the private sector. The First Lady will work with groups such as the Partnership for a Healthier America, a new foundation that will cement private sector commitments towards the shared goal of reducing childhood obesity, including but not limited to the action steps in the report.
Additionally, federal agencies will be moving quickly to implement the recommendations in the report that require federal action. In the coming year alone:
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will release new guidance for standards for physical activity and nutrition in child care settings, and help consumers make informed choices at restaurants and grocery stores, by getting calorie counts onto menus and by working with the food and beverage industry to develop a clear, standard "front of pack" food label.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture will update the Dietary Guidelines and Food Pyramid to provide parents and caregivers with helpful information about nutrition, and work with Congress to pass a child nutrition reauthorization bill that improves food in schools.
- Federal Trade Commission will continue monitoring how food is marketed to children, with a follow-up study to its 2008 report on industry practices.
- USDA, Treasury, and HHS will work with Congress to bring grocery stores and other healthy food retailers to underserved areas by supporting more than $400 million in investments in a Healthy Food Financing Initiative.
In the coming weeks, Cabinet members and Administration officials will hold events that highlight the ways in which each respective agency can do its part to address the childhood obesity epidemic.
NRA support for plan
National Restaurant Association president and CEO Dawn Sweeney issued a statement expressing the organization's support for the Childhood Obesity Task Force action plan. The association has worked with the Task Force to develop ways the restaurant industry and its leaders can help in the effort.
We appreciate the Task Force's comprehensive, multi-segmented approach, which calls for widespread coordinated efforts by schools, educators, health care providers, parents, government, policy leaders, and the food and beverage industry.
We believe that helping consumers – particularly parents – make smart choices for themselves and their families is critical and appreciate the action plan's focus on nutrition information in restaurants.
Several recommendations in the plan coincide with initiatives and trends within the industry, from the association's support for a national menu labeling provision to an increased focus on the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. The NRA and its industry partners the Produce Marketing Association and International Foodservice Distributors Association have a goal of doubling produce use in foodservice within 10 years.
"The restaurant industry is built upon consumer choice, and industry research shows rising customer interest in produce, lean meats, and nutritionally balanced children's meals," Sweeney said. "We look forward to working with the Administration and the Task Force as we work to continue to foster positive trends and look for ways to encourage more operators to continue to take voluntary action to provide healthy choices that consumers will enjoy."