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CDC calls for improving kids' access to healthy food


We've written previously on Scope about how limited access to fruits, vegetables and other fresh foods can lead to poor diets and an increased risk of obesity, among other health problems.

Now a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report highlights children's limited access to healthy, affordable food and urges communities, child care facilities and schools to take action to remedy the problem. From a WebMD article:

[The] report shows 32 states and the District of Columbia scored at or below the national average for the Modified Retail Food Environment Index, an indicator of access to retailers that sell healthy foods, like fresh fruits and vegetables.

Based on a range from zero (no food retailers that typically sell healthy food) to 100 (only food retailers that sell healthy food), the national average score was 10. The highest-scoring states were Montana and Maine, with scores of 16 and 15, respectively. Rhode Island and the District of Columbia ranked at the bottom of the index with scores of 5 and 4, respectively.

The report showed that California registered a score of 11 and strongly advocated that health officials, school districts and child care facilities nationwide implement strategies to improve children's food choices and influences. Among the suggested policy changes was the removal of sugary drinks and high-calories foods from schools:

Although sodas are prohibited in an increasing number of schools, other sugar drinks that may not be commonly perceived as sources of added sugar and excess calories may be available, such as sports drinks and fruit flavored drinks that are not 100% juice. Schools should consider adopting policies that limit access to all sugar drinks in vending machines and schools stores.

Because human appetite and satiation depend more on the volume of food consumed than on caloric content of the food, reducing the consumption of energy dense, low nutrient foods has been identified as a strategy to prevent weight gain. Foods of lower energy density and higher nutrient content such as fruits and vegetables in their natural forms, nonfat/low-fat dairy products, and whole grain products are healthful alternatives to high energy density foods such as candy, cakes, salty fried snacks, and ice cream.

Previously: Using GIS technology to visualize urban 'food deserts' and Study says nearly 40 percent of American children's diet consists of empty calories
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