Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack continued his promotion of healthy eating for children at an event in Maine this week.
Vilsack says obesity and nutrition issues can affect children in many ways.
Sec. Tom Vilsack, Agriculture Secretary: “Youngsters who are hungry or those who are chronically overweight will have those chronic diseases that they take into adulthood and that will obviously increase the cost of healthcare and decrease the quality of their lives. There are youngsters who are dealing with weight issues and self-image issues and there are youngsters who are literally not well fed, and in some cases, not fed at all coming to school.”
USDA has put healthier school meal guidelines in place aimed at improving childhood nutrition while at the same time trying to limit exposure to unhealthy foods.
Sec. Tom Vilsack: “We can't send an inconsistent message by suggesting more fruits and vegetables, whole grains and low fat dairy and focus on calorie count and then have the vending machines filled with exactly the opposite. So we put out our competitive food rule this year, it is now available for comment, and the gist of it is to substitute those unhealthy choices with healthy choices.”
Many times the summer months limit the access some kids have to healthy food and USDA is working to change that.
Sec. Tom Vilsack: “We now have 38,000 sites that we're cooperating with across the United States to provide summer feeding opportunities and we are looking for creative ways to make sure that we get the food to where the youngsters are.”
Vilsack added the government can only do so much to improve childhood nutrition and that there are important roles for all.
Sec. Tom Vilsack: “We as adults, we as parents and grandparents have got to make sure that we help them make the best and healthiest choices they can make because it is central to their success and their success is central to our country's success.”