Local News

State Senate Proposal Would Help Fight Childhood Obesity

Posted May 25, 2005 4:16 a.m. EDT

— State lawmakers looked at a proposal Wednesday that would help fight childhood obesity in North Carolina.

The new bill directs the North Carolina Board of Education to establish nutrition standards that increase the amounts of fruits, vegetables and whole grain foods. The goal, lawmakers said, is to cut down on fat and sugar and make kids healthier.

"One of the challenges we see with students in North Carolina is that they're overfed and under nourished. A lot of calories, a lot fat, not a lot of nutrients they need for optimal growth and development," said Lynn Hoggard, a child nutritionist for the Department of Public Instruction.

Sodas and snacks in vending machines would also be affected by the proposed bill. If passed, vending machines could carry only low-calorie snacks. Sugared soft drinks would be banned at middle schools and could only take up half of the slots in vending machines at high schools. All machines would have to offer bottled water.

At least one senator, however, had concerns.

"I think it's great to serve them nutritious foods, but you can't force them to buy it," Sen. Vernon Malone, D-Wake County, said.

The new standards would start with a pilot program at eight elementary schools, eight middle schools and eight high schools and be evaluated after the 2007-2008 school year.

Childhood obesity has become a growing trend in the state with 25 percent of children between the ages of 12 and 18 significantly overweight.

Studies show that overweight children pay a big price both socially and psychologically. Many experience discrimination because of their weight. Research also suggests a link between childhood obesity and poor academic performance.