Guest Post: On the Front Lines for Our Children

I am honored that the USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack accepted my invitation to guest blog about the important work the agency is doing to ensure our children are getting healthy foods and drinks at school. As you’ve read on the blog recently, it’s a critical time for our nation’s school meals program as Congress is attempting to roll back some of the nutrition standards that have already been successfully implemented. Secretary Vilsack’s important comments remind us just how crucial it is for the health of our nation for those strong nutrition standards to remain in place. 

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VilsackPhotoOn the Front Lines for Our Children

By: Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack

When you think about organizations engaged in the War on Cancer, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) may not be the first that comes to mind. Yet, we are on the front lines of the battle to reduce obesity, a known risk factor for many types of cancer, each and every day.

The impact of obesity on future health outlooks is shocking. The American Society of Clinical Oncology estimates that one in three cancer deaths in 2012 were related to obesity, poor nutrition or physical inactivity. In the next ten years, obesity is predicted to overtake tobacco as the number one preventable cause of cancer. That estimate is supported by the National Institutes of Health’s prediction that by 2030, we could see an additional 400,000 cases of cancer in the United States as a result of continuing obesity trends.

In the battle for our children’s future, it is obvious that one of the most powerful things we can do to protect them is to teach them proper nutrition and healthy habits at an early age.

These statistics send a dire warning about our children’s future, but the impacts of childhood obesity are not just a worry for tomorrow. Researchers at Duke University estimate that today, childhood obesity treatment and care costs more than $14 billion per year—costs that will skyrocket even further as obese children become obese adults.

That is why USDA is using every tool at our disposal to do our part today to help America’s children grow up healthy, strong, and ready to tackle tomorrow’s challenges.

Under the new school nutrition standards, schools now provide safe, healthy breakfasts, lunches and snacks packed with fruits, vegetables and whole grains to 31 million school children every day. The entire school environment now reinforces healthy choices. Together, these efforts are helping American children get the proper nutrition they need to learn, play, and grow up ready for a lifetime of success.

While some in Congress are now attempting to roll back the progress we’ve made under the new nutrition standards, USDA believes that politics should never trump sound policy, especially when it comes to our kids.

We’re not alone. We’re joined by millions of parents, teachers, school nutrition professionals, pediatricians, nutritionists and health advocates like the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network who know that getting healthy foods to kids all year round, combined with a strong emphasis on nutrition education, can lead to healthier, more productive futures.

It just makes good sense—if we have simple solution that can save our children from a lifetime of health and financial woes, why wouldn’t we use it?

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