First lady helps tackle child obesity

The UH Recreation and Wellness Center is one way students stay fit on campus. Athletic equipment and personal training is available. | Kendra Berglund/The Daily Cougar

Congress has taken its first step in challenging child obesity by passing the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act earlier this month. Although the act does not apply to college students, it sets a healthier trend for future generations.

The act allocates $4.5 billion over the next decade to feed more low-income children and make the foods served in K-12 schools more nutritious. 

“We can only hope that this will be the ground-breaking change to help fight child obesity,” UH Dining Services Executive Chef Tori Bergersen said. “If students start eating healthier sooner, they will acquire the healthy eating habits that will continue throughout their lives and into college. Plus with healthy eating habits, they won’t have to worry about the ‘freshman 15’ any longer.” 

The act requires the food sold in schools to meet certain nutritional guidelines instead of those loaded with high in fat and sugar. This includes using healthier products and ingredients.

“I wish this act would have been implemented sooner. The foods served when I was a kid were so saturated with fat that I felt sluggish and never wanted to exercise,” public relations senior Monae Carter said. “Healthier foods equal more energy, which will lead kids to be more active and lead a long and healthy life.” 

In order to help with the cost of the healthier food options, the bill grants that the reimbursement rate for federally sponsored school meals be on a non-inflationary basis, totaling an additional 6 cents for every meal provided.

In addition to healthier and more nutritional foods served in schools, the act calls for an expansion in the number of children from low-income families that are eligible to receive free or reduced-prices meals. 

The act also calls for an after-school program that provides meals to children who might not be able to receive the nutrients they need to sustain a healthy lifestyle at home.

In an attempt to fight childhood hunger and help promote a healthy lifestyle, first lady Michelle Obama pushed for the act as a part of her “Let’s Move” campaign.

“I am thrilled that Congress has taken a major step forward today in passing … a groundbreaking piece of legislation that will help us provide healthier school meals to children across America and will play an integral role in our efforts to combat childhood obesity,” Obama said in an official statement from the White House.

As the battle against childhood hunger and obesity continues, older students like Patricia Bielecka hope that this act will be implemented at the college level as well. 

“This act acts as a perfect basis for what college and universities have to do to fight the obesity epidemic as well,” Bielecka said. “Although upper-level educational centers were not included in this equation, it does not mean that we can’t do anything to make a difference in our lifestyles and food choices. It’s time we take a stand and make nutrition and health a priority.”

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