March 24, 2016
In the wake of releasing a new report on school breakfast practices in Allegheny County, Allies for Children joined an important conversation about children’s health with First Lady Michelle Obama. Communications Director Heather Hopson went to the White House last week to learn more about the Let’s Move! initiative and the progress achieved due to programs, partnerships, and policies implemented to help children and families lead healthier lives.
Why is This Issue Important?
Over the past three decades, childhood obesity rates in the U.S. have tripled, and today, nearly one in three children are overweight or obese. The numbers are even higher in African American and Hispanic communities, where nearly 40 percent of children are overweight or obese. If we don’t solve this problem, one third of all children born in 2000 or later will suffer from diabetes at some point in their lives, and many others will face chronic obesity-related health problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer and asthma.
Here in Allegheny County, 32 percent of children in kindergarten through sixth grade are overweight or obese.
What’s Being Done to Combat Obesity?
Let’s Move! combines comprehensive strategies with common sense. The initiative works to give parents helpful information, foster environments that support healthy choices, provide healthier foods in our schools, ensure that every family has access to healthy, affordable food and helps kids become more physically active.
Locally, Let’s Move Pittsburgh raises awareness about the benefits of healthy foods, increased exercise and decreased screen time for children. Thus far, the organization’s mini-grant program Champion Schools awarded $60,000 to local schools for leading new or existing programs to improve children’s health with the goal of helping every school in Allegheny County become the healthiest place for kids to learn and grow.
Champion Schools Award applicants submit programs in the following categories: “Bag the Junk,” for projects that promote healthy food and nutrition education in schools, such as nutrition education classes or initiatives to improve healthy vending options; “Get Kids Moving,” for projects that aim to increase physical activity in schools, such as classroom activity breaks or afterschool fitness clubs; and “Teach Kids to Grow and Cook Food,” for projects that focus on how to grow and prepare healthy food, such as school vegetable gardens or healthy cooking clubs.
Let’s Move Pittsburgh also promotes 5-2-1-0, a movement to reinforce healthy lifestyle choices.
- 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
- 2 hours or less of recreational screen time every day.
- 1 hour or more of physical activity every day.
- 0 sugary drinks and more water every day.
How is Pittsburgh on Track?
While at the White House, we learned more about the Healthy Hunger-Free Act from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Under Secretary of Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services. What’s exciting is that our nation’s leaders are encouraging school districts to take advantage of the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP). CEP allows a school to provide free breakfast and lunch to all students, something Pittsburgh Public Schools does.
Click here to read more about CEP and alternative school breakfast models in our school breakfast report.