Childhood Obesity Policy Update: October 22, 2013

    • October 22, 2013

Federal Policy

Government Shutdown Ends; Federal Nutrition Programs Up and Running
The federal government shutdown ended last week, following the passage of a continuing resolution which funds the government through January 15, 2014, and extends the nation’s borrowing authority through February 7, 2014. The agreement was reached as federal nutrition programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children were poised to halt distribution of benefits by the end of October.   

SNAP Stimulus Benefit Set to Expire October 31st
A temporary increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits enacted as part of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will expire on October 31, which will result a $5 billion reduction in overall program spending for FY2014 and a cut of $29 per month for the average family of three. According to a report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the expiration of the benefit means that SNAP participants will receive an average of less than $1.40 per person per meal in 2014.

Obesity Rates Remain High Among U.S. Adults
Obesity rates among U.S. adults remained level between 2009–2010 and 2011–2012, according to a report released last week by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). The report found that more than one-third (34.9 percent) of U.S. adults were obese in 2011–2012, a statistically insignificant drop from 35.7 percent in 2010. According to Cynthia Ogden, an NCHS epidemiologist, “this is more evidence that we're not seeing a change in adult obesity." Adult obesity rates have remained fairly constant since 2004’s rate of 32 percent. 

State and Local Policy

Childhood Obesity Rates Drop in Massachusetts
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health announced last week that the percentage of public school students statewide who are overweight or obese dropped by more than ten percent over the past five years, from 34.3 percent in 2009 to 30.6 percent in 2013. The data—based on annual weight and height screenings from more than one million students across 290 school districts—showed that the most significant declines were among elementary school children.

New York Court of Appeals to Hear Soda Size Limitation Case
The New York Court of Appeals agreed last week to hear an appeal from New York City officials challenging a ruling that struck down limitations on the size of sugar-sweetened beverages sold by restaurants and other food-service establishments in the city. The regulation—approved by the City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in September 2012 and originally scheduled to take effect in March 2013—has yet to be implemented. The Court of Appeals hearing is expected to take place in 2014.  

From the Field

AHA Releases Statement in Support of Shared Use Agreements
In a policy statement published last week in the American Journal of Public Health, the American Heart Association announced support for “shared use” agreements that open school recreational facilities to members of a community during non-school hours. The statement notes that such agreements are particularly important for low-income communities—which “have less access to recreational spaces and community recreation centers”—and identifies a series of issues schools and communities should address when entering into such agreements, such as decisions on funding sources and liability protections.   

Report: Community Eligibility Option Increasing Access to School Meals 
A recent report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the Food Research and Action Center finds that the Community Eligibility option—a provision of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act allowing schools in high poverty areas to provide free meals to children—has led to an increase in the number of students eating breakfast and lunch at school. The report examines the rollout of the provision in Illinois, Kentucky, and Michigan, the first three states to adopt the policy; findings show that average daily lunch participation in those states rose by 13 percent (an additional 23,000 children) and average daily breakfast participation rose by 25 percent (an additional 29,000 children) over the past two years. The Community Eligibility Option is now available to nearly one million children in more than 2,200 high-poverty schools in seven states.

Study: Marketing Parks Improves Physical Activity Levels
According to a RAND Corporation study published last week in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, modest efforts to market availability and access to parks can increase visitors’ physical activity levels.  The study—which examines 50 parks in Los Angeles between 2007 and 2012—finds that “simple interventions” such as increased park signage boosted physical activity by seven to 12 percent over the study period in relation to parks that did not make changes. 

Upcoming Events

Farm to School Twitter Chat
October 23, 2013
3:00 PM ET
Hosted by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service, this live chat will provide results from the first-ever nationwide census of farm to school activities and allow participants to share farm-to-school stories from local communities. Follow the discussion using the hashtags #HealthierNextGen #USDAF2S.

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.

Engaging School Administrators in the Shared Use of School Facilities to Increase Physical Activity Opportunities for Kids
November 7, 2013
2:00 – 3:00 PM ET
Hosted by the Safe Routes to School Partnership, this webinar will provide resources for sharing the principles of shared use agreements with school board members, administrators and principals. Register for the webinar.