Ensuring the health and well-being of our nation’s children is a top priority for President Obama, and for all of us at USDA. We have focused in recent years on expanding access, affordability and availability of healthy foods for families and children.
Recently, we learned of some promising new results in the fight against obesity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the rate of obesity among young, low-income children appears to be declining. In 19 states, the obesity rate among low-income preschoolers has dropped for the first time in decades – and in many other states the obesity rate has leveled off.
This is encouraging for us at USDA, because we have made special efforts to help low-income families expand their access to healthier foods. In particular, we’ve provided healthier choices through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children – the WIC program – while helping parents learn more about healthy nutrition.
We have helped expand local markets around the country – with more than 8,100 farmers markets around the country today – and in the last two years we’ve doubled the number of these markets that accept SNAP and WIC benefits.
We’re also increasing access to fresh produce during the school day. USDA has provided grants to help schools in low-income areas provide fruits and vegetables to children – and USDA Farm to School programs in nearly every state are helping school districts buy locally-produced food for school meals.
Unfortunately, some of these efforts cannot continue unless Congress passes a comprehensive Food, Farm and Jobs Bill this year.
We still face a challenge in the coming years, with one in eight preschoolers overweight or obese today. This has troubling implications for the health of our nation, our economy and our national security in years to come.
The fight against childhood obesity is winnable, but we can’t let up. We must continue efforts that have already helped millions of parents and children with better access to healthy foods. We can create a generational shift to improve childhood nutrition and together, we can build on the promising results we’ve seen so far.