CHICAGO – From pregnancy to infancy through adolescence, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act is establishing strong nutrition policies for core federal child nutrition programs implemented through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. During Kids Eat Right Month in August, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics emphasizes the importance of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act to ensure the youngest, most vulnerable populations have access to the nutrition they need to thrive and to grow into healthy adults.
“Nutrition policy shapes our environment and is especially critical to children’s well-being,” said registered dietitian nutritionist and Academy President Sonja L. Connor. “With the aim of improving children’s nutrition and decreasing childhood obesity and hunger, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act is a key contributor and a historic piece of legislation. By using evidence-based science to create nutrition policy, we are establishing a healthy environment for every child in America.”
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act affects the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC); the Child and Adult Care Food Program; the National School Lunch Program; the School Breakfast Program; and the Summer Food Service Program, among others. Through these programs and more, registered dietitian nutritionists across the country play an integral role in leading programs that improve children’s health.
“Time and time again, WIC has proven effective in safeguarding the health of pregnant women, infants and children up to age 5 who are at risk of being malnourished,” Connor said. “WIC touches one in every two kids born in the United States – it has an enormous impact on our nation.”
By providing nutritious foods to supplement diets, nutrition education on healthy eating and referrals to health care, WIC improves birth outcomes and limits health care costs.
The Child and Adult Care Food Program promotes high-quality, affordable child care by helping providers serve nutritious meals and snacks. Research shows food at participating centers is nutritionally superior to non-participating facilities.
“By serving nutrient-dense foods to 3 million children every working day through the Child and Adult Care Food Program, we are able to help young children receive nutrition they need to grow and play,” Connor said.
Once children enter school, they are welcomed by a healthy environment thanks to changes to school foods, according to Connor. From kindergarten through high school, the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program provide nutritious food in schools to help ensure students are exposed to fruits, vegetables, whole grain-rich foods, lean protein and low fat or no fat dairy. During the summertime students can also take advantage of the Summer Food Service Program, which aims to cover the hunger gap many students face when school is not in session.
“Whether it is in vending machines, during lunch or at a school fundraiser, kids will be surrounded by healthier, more nutritious options that support a balanced diet based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans,” Connor said.
Thousands of registered dietitian nutritionists work with schools as Kids Eat Right campaign members and in celebration of Kids Eat Right Month to help improve the local health environment, making sure students get the most out of their day. Kids Eat Right is a joint initiative between the Academy and its Foundation, dedicated to providing science-based healthy eating workshops, classes, articles, recipes, videos and tips to help schools, parents and families shop smart, cook healthfully and eat right.
“Strong nutrition policy such as the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act and initiatives like Kids Eat Right are putting us on the path to becoming healthier. We are making an impact today and are setting the stage for tomorrow,” Connor said.
For more information about Kids Eat Right Month and healthful eating at school and beyond, visit www.KidsEatRight.org.