Reversing the Trend in Childhood Obesity

More states took legislative action to address nutrition, physical activity and physical education in schools in 2010 than 2009, according to a new report by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). Twelve states enacted legislation relating to school nutrition, compared with seven in 2009, and eight states and the District of Columbia acted on physical activity and physical education in school, compared with five in the previous year.

State legislative action also increased around farm-to-school programs and farmers’ markets from 2009 to 2010. Six states and the District of Columbia developed policies on farm-to-school efforts, and six did so on farmers’ markets, compared with five and four, respectively, in 2009. Within these broad categories, states enacted a variety of policies, including ones that sought to:

  • improve access to healthy foods and beverages in a variety of school venues, including meals, à la carte lines, stores and vending machines;
  • require schools to preserve time for physical activity during the day;
  • create new statewide programs to get locally grown produce to schools, and help schools get the equipment they need to prepare fresh foods; and
  • make it easier for participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to use their benefits to buy fresh fruits and vegetables at farmers’ markets.

The findings are part of the 2010 edition of Reversing the Trend in Childhood Obesity: Policies to Promote Healthy Kids and Communities, an annual analysis conducted by NCSL examining state legislative action to address childhood obesity.

The report assesses state legislative activity related to nutrition, physical activity and physical education in schools, as well as state efforts to make it easier for residents to be active and purchase affordable healthy foods in their communities. Although states did take strong targeted action in 2010, overall, fewer states enacted legislation related to healthy eating or physical activity last year than did in 2009. Taking the two years together, as many states allow bills to carry over between sessions, 41 states have enacted some form of legislation designed to help prevent childhood obesity during the last two sessions.

The report was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through its national program Leadership for Healthy Communities.