To the Editor:
It's terrific that Iowa is making obesity prevention and health promotion a state priority ("A Starting Point" Sept. 27). In addition to the leadership and support from Gov. Branstad, Sen. Tom Harkin D-Iowa, has been a strong advocate for health and obesity-prevention initiatives in the state and the rest of the nation.
Harkin was a champion for the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which was signed into law by President Obama in December 2010. The HHFKA is a major step forward in our nation's effort to provide all children with healthy food in school. With 26 percent of children in Iowa and one-third of all American children overweight or obese, school meals provide an essential avenue for providing children with more nutritious food options and teaching them healthy habits that can last a lifetime.
Harkin also was the original sponsor and has been a strong supporter of the Interagency Working Group on Foods Marketed to Children, which has proposed strong, voluntary nutrition guidelines and marketing definitions to help provide a model for companies to encourage them to improve the mix of products they market to kids. Studies show that food and beverage marketing affect what children eat, and while the number of unhealthy foods marketed to children has decreased a little bit in recent years, the majority of marketed products are still high in calories, saturated fat, sodium, and/or added sugars and/or low in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Food marketing guidelines are needed for reducing children's risk of obesity, diabetes, and other diet-related diseases.
Iowa, and the rest of the country, is lucky to have leaders like Harkin working to make the state and nation a healthier place to live, work, and learn.
Margo Wootan, Director, Center for Science in the Public Interest