Childhood Obesity Policy Update: November 19, 2013

    • November 19, 2013

Federal Policy

Cabinet Secretaries Urge Compliance with Updated School Snacks Standards
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan sent a letter to school officials nationwide recently with suggestions for successful implementation of updated nutrition standards for snacks and beverages sold in schools, which are scheduled to take effect on July 1, 2014. The Secretaries encouraged state officials to work with school personnel to develop compliance plans, address procurement activities, and convey word of the changes to parents, students, and staff.  To learn more about the need for healthy snacks at schools, go to

Administration to Study Effect of Increased Medicaid Enrollment on SNAP
The Administration has commissioned a study on the extent to which increased Medicaid enrollment per the Affordable Care Act will result in a similar increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants. The anticipated increase is due to newly insured Medicaid recipients who are automatically eligible to enroll in SNAP.

Senators Question Marketing Practices of Energy Drink Company
Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Ed Markey, D-Mass., sent a letter to Rockstar Energy last week questioning why Rockstar-branded toy boats were being manufactured and sold in stores such as Target in light of the company’s assertions that it does not engage in children-directed marketing.  The Senators noted that at a July 2013 hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee—which also featured testimony from Jennifer Harris of the Yale Rudd Center on Food Policy & Obesity—Rockstar’s chief operating officer said the company does not market to children ages 12 or younger.


State and Local Policy

Local Policymakers Recognized for Commitment to Let’s Move!
Nearly 400 local government officials were recognized by the National League of Cities (NLC) last week for their commitment to the health and wellness goals of Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Counties
(LMCTC), an initiative designed to improve healthy eating and active living in communities nationwide. A subset of officials representing 18 communities were recognized for having received “gold medals” in areas such as increasing students participation in school meals programs and increasing opportunities for physical activity.

Washington Governor Issues Healthy Foods Executive Order
Washington Governor Jay Inslee (D) issued an executive order last week directing state agencies to increase the availability of healthy foods and beverages for employees and state program participants, as well as establishing a state health and wellness steering committee to setup workplace wellness programs. The order requires that all food and beverages sold in “vending machines, cafeterias, on-site retail establishments, and at meetings or events” by July 2014 meet standards based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. According to the Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition, a statewide advocacy group, the order makes Washington “the first state to adopt a comprehensive approach to increasing access to fresh, healthy food on state property and facilities.”


From the Field

Studies: Higher Prices, Calorie Displays Decrease Sales of Sugary Beverages
Increasing the price of and displaying calorie information for sugar-sweetened beverages decreases their sales
, according to studies by researchers at Harvard Medical School. Conducting their work in a cafeteria of a financial services company, researchers found that a penny-per-ounce price increase reduced sales of such beverages by 16 percent. In a separate study in the same location, posting calorie information reduced sales by 11 percent. Kelly Brownell, dean of the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University, said the study “documents the level of benefit likely to occur with public policies on taxing and labeling foods.”

Menu Labeling Drives Healthier Food Choices
Customers at full-service dining establishments in Philadelphia make healthier food choices in response to menu labeling
, according to a new study by researchers at the Drexel University School of Public Health. The study found that customers at restaurants with nutrition information on their menus purchased food with 151 fewer calories, 224 milligrams less sodium and 3.7 grams less saturated fat compared to customers at restaurants that did not post nutrition information. Since 2010, Philadelphia has required full-service chain restaurants with at least 15 locations to post total calories, sodium, fat and carbohydrates for each item on all printed menus. 


Upcoming Events

Actions to Reduce Unhealthy Food Marketing to Kids: Understanding the Past to Foster Success in the Present
November 19, 2013
1:00 – 2:00 PM ET

Sponsored by ASTHO, the Food Marketing Workgroup and NPLAN, this webinar will address the effectiveness of industry self-regulation and offer policy options to address food marketing to children at the state and local levels. Register for the webinar.

Boosting Profits, Boosting Health in Food and Beverage Operations
November 20, 2013
1:00 – 2:30 PM ET

Hosted by the Public Health Law Center, this webinar will introduce principles to making beverage operations healthy and financially successful. Register for the webinar.

Empowering Low-Income Communities to take advantage of MAP-21 Funds
November 21, 2013
2:00 – 3:00 PM ET

Hosted by the Safe Routes to School Partnership, this webinar will share benefits of and best practices for the implementation of pedestrian and bicycle projects in underserved communities. Register for the webinar.