Question of the Month: What have Midwestern states done to address childhood obesity?
Childhood obesity rates have tripled over the past three decades, leading to a rise in state efforts to combat the trend. And since children spend much of their day in school, new state laws and regulations have focused on the types of foods and levels of physical activity offered at school.
Actions taken by Ohio and Minnesota exemplify two different comprehensive approaches that have been taken by states in this region.
Ohio’s SB 210, enacted in 2010, restricts the sale of certain foods and beverages to students, provides public and charter schools with free computer software to assess the nutritional value of foods (and restricts the sale of certain foods in the lowest nutritional category), and establishes a council to monitor student wellness.
In 2008, as part of a comprehensive health care reform law, Minnesota created the Statewide Health Improvement Program, which awards competitive grants to community health boards and tribal governments that implement evidence-based strategies to reduce obesity and tobacco use.
In more recent years, a number of other measures involving school nutrition or physical activity have been passed or are under consideration.
As the result of 2010 federal legislation, national standards are being set for food products sold on school grounds. States can complement these standards not only through stricter regulations, but also by raising the nutritional quality of foods sold or consumed.
In 2012, for example, Ohio required that at least 50 percent of beverages (other than milk) sold in schools be water or contain no more than 10 calories per eight ounces. This year, Illinois is