March 23, 2010

White House: Child Hunger & Obesity “Is An Epidemic”

White House child hunger photo

Courtesy Flickr user another sergio (

As we ask The 5th Question at our home seders, and further educate ourselves at Child Nutrition Seders across the country, we find incredible support from the current administration as we strive to end child hunger.

Last month, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack spoke at a National Press Club Luncheon, where he reiterated that Child Nutrition Reauthorization is vital to education, economic strength and national security. Here are selected quotes:

You might be shocked to learn that in 2008, 16.7 million American children lived in households that had difficulty putting enough food on the table. And in over 500,000 households, children skipped meals or ate less than they needed because of a lack of resources. At the same time nearly one third of all children in America are obese or over-weight. This is an epidemic.

Ask any teacher how students who fail to eat a healthy breakfast or lunch perform in class. Hungry kids don’t learn as well. … If we want and need our children fully prepared for a competitive world and global economy we cannot afford for them to be hungry.

Children who start out life obese have greater struggles with their weight in later years. … The medical costs of obesity are enormous – approximately 10% of our nation’s health care spending – and we cannot let them continue to grow at a time when we must reduce health care costs to remain competitive.

A recent report showed that 75 percent of adults age 17-24 are not physically fit for military service. Because of the troubling trends, a coalition of retired generals and admirals has formed to advocate for a strong Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill. I thank them for their leadership and welcome their efforts to promote this important legislative initiative.

Secretary Vilsack’s entire speech can be viewed at National Press Club Online. A transcript is available from the US Department of Agriculture.

Last week, First Lady Michelle Obama spoke to Newsweek about the child obesity epidemic and her “Let’s Move!” program. Proclaiming that “the real work [to end child obesity] happens on the ground,” the First Lady explained that “Let’s Move!” is unconcerned with regulating or taxing unhealthy foods. Rather, the program aims to support communities, schools and families in providing access to affordable, healthy foods and expanding exercise efforts.

These goals bear a telling message: with unprecedented White House support, we will stop the epidemic and insure that kids all over the country can eat healthy. Call, write, email or tweet your representatives TODAY and tell them you support Child Nutrition Reauthorization (here are some advocacy tips). Donate to MAZON, and sustain food banks, pantries and backpack programs that fill in the gaps for hungry children and working families.

Now is the time. We will end child hunger by 2015.