Today, Congressman Joe Baca (D-Rialto) introduced legislation to ensure that schools across America have physical education programs that meet nationally recognized minimum requirements. The Physical Education to Create a Healthier Nation Act would require that all public schools provide for minimum requirements of physical education time for all students. The bill requires elementary schools to have at least 150 minutes of physical education per week for students. For middle and high schools, it requires at least 225 minutes of physical education per week for students. The mandated physical education levels are those currently recommended by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE), a non-profit association dedicated to quality in physical education and sport.
"The rate of childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years -- and obesity related health care now costs our nation over $147 billion annually," said Rep. Baca. "We must implement preventative policies that will create a fit future for our children, and stop the public health epidemic that obesity has become. Greater emphasis on physical activity, nutrition education, access to healthy foods, and changes to our sedentary culture are all critical to solving this crisis. I am proud to introduce this bill to begin addressing part of the solution to the obesity epidemic."
The Physical Education to Create a Healthier Nation Act amends the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, by linking Title I funding received by local school districts to the implementation of a physical education curriculum that meets the requirements of 150 minutes of activity per week for elementary students, and 225 minutes per week for middle and high school students. The legislation also includes provisions to ensure students with disabilities follow a physical education plan that corresponds to their Individualized Education Plan (IEP).
Rep. Baca served as Chair of the House Agriculture Subcommittee with jurisdiction on nutrition issues from 2007 -- 2010. In that capacity, he served as a leading advocate for increasing access to nutritious foods through federal feeding programs like SNAP (the food stamp program), the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program, and the Commodity Supplemental Foods Program. This Congress, Rep. Baca has already introduced H.R. 317, the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Grower Tax Incentive Act, legislation designed to increase access to healthy foods by promoting the growing of fruits and vegetables by more small and medium sized farms.
"It is terrifying that right now, we are raising the first ever generation of Americans to have shorter life expectancies than their parents," concluded Rep. Baca. "And with obesity related costs expected to hit $1 trillion annually by the year 2030 -- we need to realize that if left unchecked, this health crisis can literally bankrupt our nation. This legislation is an important first step in recognizing the seriousness of childhood obesity, and working towards preventative solutions that makes America a happier, healthier nation."