Childhood Obesity Policy Update: December 3, 2013

    • December 3, 2013

Federal Policy

Report: SNAP Spending, Total Caseloads Dropping
A recent report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities notes that the number of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients and total program spending have dropped as the economy has improved. Analyzing data from the Department of Agriculture and individual states, the report concludes that “caseloads leveled off in 2011 and 2012 and have remained essentially flat for the past year...across the nation.” CPBB estimates that SNAP spending will continue to decline—both in total dollars and as a share of Gross Domestic Product—in Fiscal Year 2014.


State and Local Policy

Bill Would Allow New Jersey Doctors to Write Prescriptions for Parks
New Jersey Assemblywoman BettyLou Decroce (R) introduced legislation that would allow physicians to prescribe free access to state parks to patients with obesity-related conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. The Park Prescription Program Act would provide free entrance to such residents at any of New Jersey’s 50 state park facilities for two 12-week periods, and would require the state’s Division of Parks and Forestry to develop a brochure highlighting physical activity opportunities within park facilities.

Minnesota Farmers’ Markets Experience Threefold Rise in Food Stamp Purchases
Minnesota residents receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Benefits redeemed more than $226,000 at state farmers’ markets in 2013, a threefold increase in the nearly $67,000 redeemed in 2011. While farmers’ market spending represented only one percent of total SNAP spending statewide, the U.S. Department of Agriculture noted that nearly 60 farmers’ markets in Minnesota now accept SNAP benefits.   


From the Field

Parents Concerned about Lack of Physical Education in Public Schools
More parents are concerned about inadequate levels of physical education than they are about their child’s academic training, according to a poll released by NPR/Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF)/Harvard School of Public Health. Among 1,368 parents of public school children in grades K-12, one in four (25 percent) parents said their child’s school gives too little emphasis to physical education, compared with one in seven who say the same thing about reading and writing (14 percent) or math (15 percent).

Children’s Diets Marked by “Empty Calories”
More than one-third of calories children consume from foods found in grocery stores, schools and fast food restaurants are “empty calories”—calories coming from added sugars or solid fats—according to a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Researchers noted that the data analyzed was collected prior to the recent implementation of updated nutrition standards for federal school meals programs. According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, no more than 8 to 19 percent of calories in children’s diets should be of the “empty” variety.     

Menu Labeling Drives Customers to Healthier Restaurant Options
Customers who dined at restaurants with nutrition information printed on menus purchased items with fewer calories compared to customers who dined at unlabeled restaurants, according to a study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine. A research team led by the Drexel University School of Public Health found that customers who ate at restaurants that made nutrition information available purchased 155 fewer calories, 224 milligrams less sodium and 3.7 grams less saturated fat than customers at restaurants without labeling. 


Upcoming Events

Obesity: Food Policy, Production and Delivery
December 5, 2013
8:00 – 9:00 PM ET

Hosted by the Obesity Action Coalition, this webinar will explore how food policy, production, and delivery contribute to the obesity epidemic. Register for the webinar.

Illuminating the Path: The Critical Role Federal Agencies Play in Creating Safe, Walkable Communities
December 9, 2013
2:00 – 3:30 PM ET

Hosted by America Walks, this webinar will highlight federal programs that promote the creation of safe, walkable environments. Register for the webinar.

Report from the Field: Mexico and Telluride’s Sugary Drink Taxes
December 12, 2013
3:00 – 4:00 ET

Hosted by the Yale Rudd Center, Center for Science in the Public Interest, and California Center for Public Health Advocacy, this webinar will feature leaders of the latest sugary drink tax campaigns as they recount their campaign strategies and lessons learned. Register for the webinar.

The Current State of Obesity Solutions in the United States—A Workshop
January 7, 2014
National Academy of Sciences Building
2101 Constitution Avenue NW Washington, DC 20418

Hosted by the Institute of Medicine’s new Roundtable on Obesity Solutions, this workshop will present a status update on the current epidemiology of obesity and explore the prevalence, trends, severity, and disparities across the United States. Workshop presenters will discuss key settings where change is happening, focusing on nutrition, physical activity, the elimination of health disparities, and what should happen next. Register to attend the meeting or watch via live webcast.

2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Second Meeting
January 13-14, 2014
Washington D.C.

Hosted by the Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services, this will be the second meeting of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. The meeting was originally scheduled for October 3-4, 2013 but was rescheduled due to the government shutdown.  A federal register notice with more information will be published in the coming weeks.  Learn more about the Advisory Committee