Our nation’s youth face major roadblocks to good health with easy access to calorie-laden snacks, sugary beverages and other unhealthy foods in their schools and communities. With about 1 out of every 6 children in the U.S. considered obese, we are condemning our kids to a bleak future of premature health problems such as type-2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and other risk factors for heart disease. The CDC Report: Children’s Food Environment State Indicator Report is a painful reminder that many children continue to lack access to fruits, vegetables and nutritious food close to home. We must place a greater emphasis on making healthier food choices more accessible and affordable, particularly for families living in food deserts where the nearest supermarket could be miles away and for those surrounded by fast food restaurants or corner stores with less healthy offerings.
Parents, schools, child-care facilities and communities have the potential to improve the health of young people by providing the tools they need to learn lifelong healthy behaviors. By strengthening nutrition standards in schools, pre-schools and day care settings, we can help limit kids’ exposure to unhealthy options. We must also support measures to reduce sodium and eliminate trans fat in the food supply, increase community and school gardens, reduce children’s exposure to marketing and advertising of unhealthy foods and require calorie information to be displayed on menus and menu boards in all restaurants.
Strong public policies and community programs to increase access to healthy foods will help children develop heart-healthy eating habits that could significantly reduce childhood obesity rates across the country. To access the report, go to www.cdc.gov/obesity/downloads/ChildrensFoodEnvironment.pdf