Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says more has to be done to promote childood nutrition and fight childhood obesity. Speaking at the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital in Portland, Maine, Vilsack said nutrition and obesity issues can affect children in a variety of ways.
Vilsack said, “Youngsters who are hungry or those who are chronically overweight will have those chronic diseases that they take into adulthood and that will obviously increase the cost of healthcare and decrease the quality of their lives. There are youngsters who are dealing with weight issues and self-image issues and there are youngsters who are literally not well fed, and in some cases, not fed at all coming to school. “
Vilsack said the Department of Agriculture has put together healthier school meals guidelines in place to improve childhood nutrition and is taking steps to limit exposure to unhealthy food.
Vilsacksaid, “We can't send an inconsistent message by suggesting more fruits and vegetables, whole grains and low fat dairy and focus on calorie count and then have the vending machines filled with exactly the opposite. So we put out our competitive food rule this year, it is now available for comment, and the gist of it is to substitute those unhealthy choices with healthy choices.”
Vilsack said the USDA is working to make sure children have access to healthy food when school is out.
Vilsacksaid, “We now have 38,000 sites that we're cooperating with across the United States to provide summer feeding opportunities and we are looking for creative ways to make sure that we get the food to where the youngsters are.”
While the government can take steps to improve childhood nutrition, he added there are important roles for all of the people in children’s lived.
Vilsack said, “We as adults, we as parents and grandparents have got to make sure that we help them make the best and healthiest choices they can make because it is central to their success and their success is central to our country's success.”
Click here for a full transcript of his remarks.
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