April 19, 2006

HEALTHY FOODS = HEALTHY KIDS

Guest opinion by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo

FOR RELEASE CONTACT: Susan Wheeler (202) 224-5150Week of April 23, 2006 Laura Thurston Goodroe (202) 224-7500HEALTH = FRUIT AND VEGIES ²Guest opinion submitted by Idaho Senator Mike CrapoIn 2002, the Outdoor Industry Association ranked Idahoans, 16 and older, as top in the nation in percentage of the population participation in outdoor activities. It makes sense, considering the beauty and accessibility of our natural recreation resources and the many local and state initiatives which have further enhanced our ability to enjoy the outdoors. Yet, just a year later in 2003, the Centers for Disease Control surveyed high school students nationwide and what they discovered about Idaho students was not such positive news. Eighty-one percent of Idaho high school students consumed less than the recommended servings of fruit and vegetables a day over a seven-day period. Seventy-one percent had not participated in sufficient moderate physical activity over a seven-day period (defined as breaking a sweat when exercising for at least 30 minutes on less than five of the seven days). Eleven percent were at risk for becoming overweight. Clearly, we need to keep encouraging our kids toward a lifestyle that many Idaho adults already enjoy. Schools in Idaho are fully aware of the issue and are taking meaningful steps to change poor nutrition trends of our youth. The 2004 School Health Profiles indicates that 68 percent of Idahoâ??s middle/junior and senior high schools teach important nutrition and dietary topics in a required health education course; 78 percent require students to take two or more physical education courses; and 33 percent have fruits or vegetables available for purchase at a school store or snack bar. Recently, the federal government began stepping up these efforts in Idaho in a very tangible way. In November 2005, the President signed Public Law 109-97, which provided $751,800 to 25 Idaho schools in an expansion of the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP) under the 2006 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. First operating as a four-state pilot program, FFVP provides free fresh fruits and vegetables as healthy snacks to students in schools across the nation, benefiting students and farmers. The 25 Idaho schools that are participating in the program serve close to 10,000 students in counties statewide. Students and teachers have expressed widespread satisfaction with the program in letters and emails to the State Department of Education, indicating tremendous success. While a commendable start, current funding levels for this critical program serve a limited number of states. This is why I am working with my colleagues to urge members of the Senate to increase funding to expand this program. A substantial investment in FFVP will improve the health of school children nationwide.In this day and age, electronic entertainment combined with busy family lives, creates an environment that encourages sedentary lifestyle habits. Parents, schools and communities must counteract these tendencies by providing healthy eating and exercise options. Itâ??s my hope that the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program will be expanded to help ensure the health of our children. In addition to this effort, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the National Cancer Institute and the National Institutes of Health sponsor a website with some suggestions for ways to incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables into a daily nutrition regimen. Some of these include having fruit at breakfast every day; keeping a bowl of fruit on your desk or counter; keeping bags of dried fruit around as easy, non-perishable snacks; and storing cut-up vegetables in the fridge at your childâ??s eye-level. Itâ??s also important to encourage children to eat fresh fruits, vegetables or nuts as an after-school snack as opposed to heavily-processed, pre-packaged snacks. For more tips on healthy eating and recipe suggestions, please see my website, http://crapo.senate.gov. WORD COUNT: 600