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CDC report finds healthier, affordable meals needed for kids

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Healthy food for children

In a new analysis, the CDC says healthier, readily accessible and affordable meals are needed for kids to curb the obesity epidemic that has tripled over the past thirty years.

The CDC report found 32 states and the District of Columbia fell short on the number of food retailers selling healthy foods. Limiting screen and computer time and providing access to healthier foods like fruits and vegetables will take more cooperation to curb the childhood obesity epidemic, the CDC says.

Director Thomas Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. said, "This report underscores the need to make healthier choices easier for kids and more accessible and affordable for parents", citing the rising rates of obesity among children.

According to the Modified Retail Food Environment Index (mRFEI) that measures the number of retailers that offer healthy food choices within a state, on a scale of zero to 100, the national average was 10.

Lower scores mean there are more fast food retailers and convenience stores, less likely to sell healthy food and fewer supermarkets with fresh fruits and vegetables.

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The report found the lowest mRFEI scores in Rhode Island and District of Columbia, which were 5 and 4 respectively. The highest scores for access to healthy food were 16 in Montana and 15 in Maine.

As of December 2008, Georgia was the only state that implemented state licensure guidelines for childcare facilities that include limited access to sugar drinks, ready availability of drinking water, and limited TV and computer screen time. Twenty-nine states enacted one of the guidelines, and District of Columbia implemented none.

William Dietz, M.D., Ph.D., director of CDC's Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity. "Parents also want their children to continue eating well in school or child care facilities said, “This report highlights actions that states, communities, and individuals can take to improve children's food choices and influence.”

The report found schools in 49 states still offer candy, sodas and fast food advertising to students on school grounds. Twenty-four percent of schools in New York allow fast food restaurant advertising, but in Ohio, 70 percent of middle and high schools allowed ads for less healthy fast food.

The findings, from The 2011 Children's Food Environment State Indicator Report, which is a compilation of the CDC’s analysis of obesity prevention in childcare settings and “School Health Profiles, shows more support is needed from schools, communities and childcare centers to prevent childhood obesity by ensuring healthy and affordable meals for kids.

Source: CDC