Bill would aim to reduce earlier childhood obesity.
Washington, D.C. – Last Wednesday, Councilmember Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) introduced legislation that would require early childhood learning centers and day cares to adopt higher nutritional standards, promote increased physical activity, and embrace wellness policies. The legislation would also require early childhood learning centers to participate in the federal Child and Adult Care Food Program, a program which feeds 3.3 million children each day. Additionally, the legislation will offer additional financial reimbursement to child care centers that serve meals that meet the new nutritional standards, established by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education. The legislation would also encourage the Department of Parks and Recreations to form joint-use agreements with early care centers that would make D.C. recreation centers and playgrounds available for use by centers to promote physical activity.
“In 2009, the District’s Department of Health found that 43% of students enrolled in our schools were overweight or obese; which is why I introduced the Healthy Schools Act that year which was later signed into law” said Cheh. “However, to establish positive eating habits and help prevent obesity later in life, such behavior needs to be encouraged at an even earlier stage of child development.” According to the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity, over half obese children become overweight by the age of 2, and one in five children are overweight or obese by their sixth birthday. Early results have indicated that the Healthy Schools Act, which will serve as the roadmap for the Healthy Tots Act, is having a strong effect; with healthier meals including whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, and an overall reduction of highly processed and fried foods in D.C. public schools. “By adopting such changes in their programs, early child care centers can establish themselves as models of healthy behavior,” said Cheh. “This legislation, when passed will provide the structure for this transformation, and help take essential steps towards reducing childhood obesity in the District.”