2009-07-31 / Top Stories

Gillibrand Plans To Fight Childhood Obesity

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, the first New York senator in 40 years to sit on the Senate Agriculture Committee, recently unveiled her plan to address childhood obesity and lower health care costs. Gillibrand announced legislation that would ban trans fat in schools. Under this new legislation, any school that receives federal reimbursements would be required to remove food containing trans fat from the school. Schools would have a fiveyear window to implement the policy. The legislation would also include waivers for pre-existing contracts and special circumstances.

Gillibrand's plan would also reduce the amount of junk food and snacks, such as sugary sodas and candy, currently available in schools. She is working on legislation that would expand USDA authority to regulate all food served in schools, including vending machines, and would require that all food served on school grounds during school hours meet federal nutritional standards. Gillibrand's plan would increase the federal reimbursement rate for schools participating in the National School Lunch Program. The current reimbursement rates schools receive do not even keep pace with the rate of inflation. With the Child Nutrition Act set to expire this year, Gillibrand is working to increase school reimbursements by 70 cents — from $2.57 per meal to $3.27 per meal — which would help schools afford healthier meals.

Gillibrand's plan would also provide targeted relief to high cost areas like New York City and other communities around the state, including Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Ulster, Orange, Putnam, Rockland and Dutchess Counties. In the coming weeks, she will announce new legislation that addresses the unique challenges to schools in high cost areas.

Finally, Gillibrand is introducing legislation that will result in more exercise opportunities for children and improve health care quality for children who are obese or suffer from other eating disorders. The Improved Nutrition and Physical Activity Act — the IMPACT Act — would invest $60 million to provide grants for community based health centers and organizations to help communities at high risk of fostering obesity. Additionally, the IMPACT Act would invest $10 million to provide training grants to health profession students to help them recognize and properly deal with overweight, obesity and eating disorders.

It would also provide direct help for those suffering from these disorders.

"As Congress debates how to improve health care access and lower health care costs, we must also pursue a strategy to tackle childhood obesity and improve the health of our future generations," Gillibrand said. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over the last 30 years, obesity among American children ages six to 11 has more than doubled, from 6.5 percent to 17 percent. In the same timeframe, obesity among 12- to 19- year-olds has more than tripled, from five percent to nearly 18 percent.

Nearly 60 percent of New York adults are overweight or obese, according to a county-by-county report released by Gillibrand's office today.

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