HJR 637: Joint Subcommittee Studying Childhood
Obesity in Public Schools
July 11, 2007
The Joint Subcommittee
Studying Childhood Obesity in Virginia's Public Schools held its first
meeting in Richmond. HJR 637 directs the members to ascertain methods
of combating childhood obesity in the public schools. Delegate John M.
O'Bannon was elected chair and Senator Linda T. Puller was elected vice-chair.
Delegate O'Bannon and Secretary of Health and Human Resources, Marilyn
Tavenner, gave brief opening remarks, stressing the importance of addressing
this issue at the state level.
Staff first gave a brief overview of the findings of last year's Senate
Education and Health Special Subcommittee on Childhood Obesity, which
was established to examine SB 206 from the 2006 Session. SB 206 would
have required the Board of Education to promulgate regulations, in cooperation
with the State Department of Health, establishing standards to facilitate
the prevention and reduction of childhood obesity in the public schools
and the division superintendents to complete instruction concerning the
causes and consequences of overweight and obese students, and the relationship
between nutrition and health.
During the 2006
interim, the special subcommittee held two meetings. The first meeting
was focused on initiatives throughout the state aimed at combating obesity.
The second meeting focused on local school board perspectives, where representatives
of various school boards spoke about the difficulties in implementing
healthier options in school cafeterias. The subcommittee also learned
of Virginia's indefinite physical education requirements. The special
subcommittee took no action on SB 206.
Fellin, a DOE spokesperson and a joint subcommittee member, updated the
members on the DOE’s obesity-related initiatives. She detailed the
implementation of the federally mandated local wellness policies. The
policies are required of any school division that participates in the
federal school lunch or school breakfast program. Ms. Fellin pointed out
that in Virginia, no competitive foods may be sold during lunch periods,
but otherwise the DOE does not regulate competitive foods, such as those
sold in vending machines or school stores. Delegate O'Bannon and other
joint subcommittee members agreed that they would like more information
on what schools do with the funds raised by vending machine and other
outside sales at the next meeting. The members were also interested in
any information school divisions gathered on the height, weight, or body
mass index of students. While representatives stressed that DOE data is
not required to be reported, they agreed to gather any information that
has been voluntarily reported for the next meeting.
Joe Hilbert, Department
of Health, gave an update on the agency's efforts to prevent obesity.
He explained that the final CHAMPION Report is due by the summer of 2008;
this report is of a five year plan detailing which programs should be
implemented throughout the state. At that time, the Health Department
hopes to provide funding opportunities to implement these programs at
the local level. He gave some examples of programs currently being funded
by grants to various local health districts.
Mr. Hilbert discussed
the upcoming Governor's Healthy Students Summit, which will take place
in Richmond on September 20. Nearly 400 representatives of local school
divisions and local health departments are expected to attend, where they
will learn about recent collaborations between public education and public
health for the prevention of childhood obesity. Participants will also
learn how both the federal Local Wellness Policies and the Governor's
Scorecard for Nutrition and Physical Activity can be used as tools in
developing obesity prevention efforts.
After a brief public comment period, the chairman asked the members for
their comments. Several members expressed an interest in seeing any available
data on current obesity rates among Virginia's public school children.
There was a general sense of agreement that childhood obesity is a complex
issue, which will require a multifaceted approach. Public schools have
limited control over student's exercise and eating habits, and many members
commented on the need to involve families and communities, in order to
change the culture that has led to such an increase in obesity rates.
Delegate O'Bannon asked to hear from a representative of the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention at the next meeting. He also requested
that the Department of Education report any information they have on obesity
rates in various school divisions, as well as information on the funds
raised by vending machine and other competitive food sales in schools.
Staff was asked to gather information on what other states have done to
combat childhood obesity. The next meeting of the joint subcommittee is
scheduled for August 29, 2007, at the General Assembly Building in Richmond.
The Hon. John O'Bannon,
Nikki Seeds, DLS Staff
of Legislative Services > Legislative
Record > 2007
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