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"Healthy Choices, Healthy Kids"
Campaign Announced to Combat Childhood Obesity

For Immediate Release: May 15, 2003


Hope Gruzlovic




New Jersey state officials today unveiled a series of initiatives to combat childhood obesity and improve children's academic performance by promoting better nutrition and physical activity in schools.

The new "Healthy Choices, Healthy Kids" campaign is being spearheaded by the Department of Agriculture - which administers the federal school breakfast and lunch programs -- in cooperation with the Departments of Health and Senior Services and Education.

"We raise a lot of things in New Jersey, but nothing more important than our children," said Agriculture Secretary Charles M. Kuperus. "We are committed to working with schools to raise the bar on the nutritional value of the foods we make available to our children."

"Choices made early in life can have a profound effect on health," said Health and Senior Services Commissioner Clifton R. Lacy, M.D. "By encouraging children to develop healthy habits - such as eating nutritious foods and engaging in regular physical activity - we can help them avoid developing serious health problems later in life."

Under the "Healthy Choices, Healthy Kids" campaign:

  • The Department of Agriculture will amend its child nutrition program rule to require that all schools develop a school nutrition policy and will work with schools to replace unhealthy foods with more nutritious alternatives. The Department also will provide training for school administrators and food service directors on marketing nutritious foods to children and incorporating more fruits and vegetables into the school meal program. In addition, the Department is working with Rutgers University's Farm to Schools project to increase the use of locally grown farm products in the schools.
  • The Department of Education has revised its core curriculum standards to place greater emphasis on nutrition and the relationship between diet and fitness. For the first time, the standards include stand-alone sections on nutrition education. They also include a number of new fitness standards.
  • The Departments of Health and Senior Services and Education will work with school nurses to collect information on student height and weight as part of a pilot study to assess children's health and assist in developing policies and programs addressing obesity. They also will work together to implement a pilot 10,000 Steps program, a fitness initiative that equips children and teachers with pedometers and encourages them to walk 10,000 steps a day.
  • The Department of Health and Senior Services will expand the Seniors and Kids: Breakfast Together program to pre-kindergarten through third-grade students in 56 schools in 2004. In 2001 and 2002, a total of five school districts participated in the program.

The initiatives were announced today at a summit in Trenton sponsored by New Jersey Action for Healthy Kids. The summit featured discussions of the increasing problem of overweight children and potential solutions for creating healthier schools.

Action for Healthy Kids is a nationwide initiative dedicated to improving the health and educational performance of children through better nutrition and physical activity in schools. Members of New Jersey Action for Healthy Kids include the N.J. Departments of Agriculture, Education, and Health and Senior Services, the American Dairy Association and Dairy Council, American Cancer Society, N.J. Dietetic Association, N.J. School Food Service Association, Mid-Atlantic Dairy Association, and USDA Food and Nutrition Service's Mid-Atlantic Region.