Childhood Obesity Policy Update: October 15, 2013

    • October 15, 2013

Federal Policy

Government Shutdown Continues; School Meals Funding Secure, SNAP Funding May Expire
The Department of Agriculture USDA released a memo last week indicating that federal funding for school meals programs “is sufficient to support program activity for several months in FY2014” due to mandatory appropriations under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. On the flip side, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program’s (SNAP) statutory authority to distribute benefits expires on October 31, meaning a government shutdown extending into November would force SNAP to rely on a $2 billion contingency fund, a small fraction of the program’s $6 billion monthly operating cost.  

Government Shutdown Continues; Interior to Allow National Parks to Reopen if States Foot Bill
The Department of the Interior announced last week that it will reopen national parks during the government shutdown if states agree to provide funding for National Park Service personnel currently on furlough. The 401 units in the national parks system—all of which have been closed since the shutdown began—provide recreation and physical activity opportunities for approximately 280 million visitors annually.

Department of Education Awards $32 Million in Nutrition and Physical Activity Grants
The Department of Education recently announced $32 million in Fiscal Year 2013 grants to 60 schools and community-based organizations to fund nutrition and physical education programs. The grants were distributed through the Carol M. White Physical Education Program (PEP); recipients of PEP grants must implement healthy eating and/or physical fitness programs that help students make progress toward meeting their state standards for physical education. 

State and Local Policy

Seattle Mayor Considering Soda Tax to Fund City Parks
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn (D) announced last week that he is considering pursuing a penny-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages to help maintain the city’s parks. City officials estimated that the tax would raise $21 to $29 million annually, an amount which would cover the current $20 million budget shortfall in park operating and maintenance costs.

NYC “Health Bucks” Program Demonstrates Success
Farmers’ markets in New York City participating in a program providing $2 coupons to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants for every $5 in SNAP benefits they spend experienced increased sales as a result, according to a study conducted by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The study, funded by a federal Communities Putting Prevention to Work grant, found that farmers markets’ offering the “Health Bucks” coupons to SNAP recipients averaged $383 in daily electronic benefit transfer sales between 2006 and 2009, compared to $273 for markets not providing the incentive.  

From the Field

ChangeLab Solutions Releases Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Resources
ChangeLab Solutions released a package of resources last week designed for communities and states to consider as they work to reduce sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) consumption. The resources include a Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Playbook with ten recommended strategies; model ordinances regulating the sales of SSBs; model resolution supporting an excise tax, model SSB tax legislation; and, a variety of other resources for communities. 

Study Examines Foods and Beverages Promoted through ‘Advergames’
Foods of low nutritional value are being marketed to children through ‘advergames’—free online games designed to promote branded products—according to a study conducted by researchers at Michigan State University. The study examined the nutrition content of foods and beverages promoted through advergames compared with nutrition guidelines recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration; it found that 95 percent of meals and 78 percent of snacks exceed the recommendations for total fat; 95 to 97 percent of the meals and 41 percent to 64 percent of snacks exceed recommendations for total sodium; and 87 percent of meals and 97 percent of snacks exceed recommendations for total added sugar. 

Upcoming Events

Teaching Nutrition and Physical Activity in Medical School: Training Doctors for Prevention-Oriented Care
October 17, 2013
9:00 AM – 2:30 PM ET
Washington, D.C.
Sponsored by the Bipartisan Policy Center, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation and the American College of Sports Medicine, this conference will highlight innovative approaches taken by medical schools to increase nutrition and physical activity training. Register for the conference.

Food Policy 101: Expanding Healthy Food Access on Food Day 2013
October 24, 2013
2:00 – 3:00 PM ET
Sponsored by PolicyLink, this webinar will share strategies for improving access to healthy foods. Register for the webinar.

Addressing Obesity Through Community Benefit Activities: Assessing Needs and Determining Impact
October 31, 2013
10:00 – 11:30 AM ET
Washington, D.C.
Sponsored by the Strategies to Overcome and Prevent (STOP) Obesity Alliance, this event will explore ways in which new community benefit reporting requirements for nonprofit hospitals may be used to address obesity. Register for the event.

Food Policy Councils:  Recipes for Success from the Local, County, and State Levels
October 31, 2013
2:00 – 3:15 PM ET
Sponsored by the Institute for Public Health Innovation, this webinar will share perspectives on Food Policy Councils from elected officials and community members who have served on them. Register for the webinar