Investigator Visits White House to Advocate for Improved Nutrition Standards in Schools
CHOP Research investigator Virginia Stallings, M.D., attended the Childhood Obesity Meeting at the White House on April 9 at the invitation of the Childhood Obesity Task Force established by President Barack Obama. Dr. Stallings, an international expert on nutrition and nutrition research, was called upon to discuss the obesity epidemic in the United States and opportunities to improve the food and nutritional environment of schools.
Dr. Stallings has significantly contributed to several Institute of Medicine (IOM) reports, developed at the request of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, recommending new standards for food and beverages available in U.S. schools. She was chair of a report formulating nutritional guidelines for items sold from vending machines and school stores, and a more recent report on nutrition standards for breakfast and lunch menu for students. In combination with a report proposing new requirements for the Women, Infants, and Children program, which supplements the diets of low-income individuals, Dr. Stallings has contributed to a series of nutrition recommendations with the potential to affect many U.S. children.
Funding for school lunch programs must be reauthorized every five years, and the end of the current funding cycle is approaching. Additionally, Michelle Obama’s national campaign against childhood obesity was recently launched as a comprehensive and coordinated initiative to prevent childhood obesity and includes an emphasis on healthy schools. The Childhood Obesity Meeting was an opportunity for experts in nutritional science, school chefs, and members of food industry, media, education, and advocacy groups, to advocate for change in legislative and regulatory standards affecting the health of children.
“The current convergence of interest in childhood obesity is a unique opportunity to talk about the importance of food on the health of all children in a setting that can have a rapid influence on child nutrition in schools,” says Dr. Stallings. “The hope is that new legislation will incorporate all of the IOM report recommendations. An investment in nutritious foods is an investment in healthy children who will likely become healthier adults.”
Dr. Stallings’ involvement in the Childhood Obesity Meeting serves as an example of how CHOP Research investigators inform policies and regulations that affect the health of children nationwide.