Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Passionate about Child Health and Wellness

by Noah Drew, JD and Vahista Ussery, MS, MBA, RDN
Co-leaders of the TCFPC Children's Working Group

In the United States, the percentage of children and adolescents affected by obesity has more than tripled since the 1970s. Data from 2015-2016 shows that nearly 1 in 5 school-age children and young people (6 to 19 years) in the United States has obesity.  As of 2018, more than 44 percent of children in the Fort Worth Independent School District were overweight or obese.

While genetics and physical activity play a part, a healthy diet is the keystone for maintaining a healthy weight. More than 90 percent of American children have poor diets. Some children have it harder than others, living in food deserts, where there are few nearby places for their parents to purchase healthy foods. Despite their economic situation, our overall environment sets a child up for failure when it comes to health. To help combat this problem, our mission is improving access to healthy foods for children at home, restaurants, schools and in the community.

Our Children’s Working Group is made up of members from a variety of backgrounds and areas of work, but all of us share a passion for children’s health. We are currently working on the following initiatives:

  •  Children’s Menu Program: We want to ensure children have healthy dining options when visiting restaurants in Tarrant County. Currently, many menus feature popular “kid foods,” but these foods do not provide the nutrition kids need. We hope to help increase fruit and vegetable options, decrease soda and other sweetened beverages, and promote healthier cooking techniques.
  • Summer Feeding Promotion: Many kids rely on the National School Lunch Program and other feeding programs throughout the school year. When summer begins, many have nothing to eat at home. Through the Seamless Summer Program and Summer Food Service Program, free meals are offered to children under age 18 throughout Tarrant County. Unfortunately, many families do not take advantage of these programs, so we hope to increase awareness and ensure we have less hungry kids in our county.
  • Vended Meal Food Quality Improvement: Many afterschool programs rely on vended meal companies to provide nutritious snacks and supper meals to children. We unfortunately have discovered a lack of quality with these meals, and plan to help improve the acceptability. The Tarrant Area Food Bank has already taken steps to ensure their vendors understand the importance of quality. They have modified their procurement procedures to require vendor sample meals, and are working with their current vendor to improve their offerings. We hope the Food Bank’s story will help to lead others to encourage other food vendors to make changes to their meals.

If any of these initiatives sound like something you would like to get involved with, please consider attending our next working group meeting. We would also love to hear feedback and other ideas!  

No comments:

Post a Comment