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 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.