Today, Congressman Joe Baca (D-Rialto) introduced legislation to require all schools participating in the National School Lunch Program to teach children at least 50 hours of nutrition education per school year. The Healthy Children through School Nutrition Education Act amends section 9A of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act to require local education agencies to include the 50 hour nutrition education requirement as part of its school wellness policies.
"The rate of childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years -- and obesity related health care, along with lost worker productivity, now costs our nation over $270 billion annually," said Rep. Baca. "Educating our children on healthy foods and nutrition, along with placing greater emphasis on physical activity, is critical to solving this crisis. Better education on nutritious foods and proper diets can help our students make healthier choices in both the lunch room and at home. I am proud to introduce this responsible bill to begin addressing part of the solution to the obesity epidemic."
The Healthy Children through School Nutrition Education Act mandates that 50 hours of nutrition education are offered to students each year at every grade level as part of a sequential, comprehensive, standards-based program designed to provide students with the knowledge and skills necessary to promote and protect their health. Currently, the mean number of hours spent on nutrition education in the first 4 years of school is only 13 hours per year. A minimum of 50 hours per year are thought to be necessary to influence behavior. And behavior that is learned in early school years is scientifically proven to be much more likely practiced into adulthood.
"It is absolutely 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 make America a happier, healthier nation."
Rep. Baca served as Chair of the House Agriculture Subcommittee with Jurisdiction on nutrition issues from 2007 - 2010. In that capacity, he played a key role in increasing federal support for vital nutrition programs like SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), the Commodity Supplemental Foods Program, and TEFAP (The Emergency Food Assistance Program). In the current 112th Congress, Rep. Baca continues to serve as a strong advocate in the fight against childhood obesity, having introduced legislation to mandate more physical education time for students at our nation's schools and increase the supply of fresh fruit and vegetables in America's underserved communities.
Rep. Baca also introduced the Healthy Children through School Nutrition Education Act in the previous (111th) Congress. The legislation was endorsed by the National Education Association, the National Indian Health Board, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Inland Behavioral and Health Services, the Junior Leagues of California, the Latino Health Communications Network, and the National Hispanic Medical Association.