Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2007

HJR 637: Joint Subcommittee Studying Childhood Obesity in Public Schools

October 22, 2007

The Joint Subcommittee Studying Childhood Obesity in Virginia's Public Schools held its third meeting of the 2007 interim on October 22, 2007, in Richmond with Delegate John O'Bannon as chair.

Guest Speakers

Lynne Fellin, Acting Director of School Nutrition Programs, Department of Education
Ms. Fellin gave a recap of the Governor's Healthy Students Summit which was held in Richmond on September 20, 2007. She described the presentations that were given and spoke about the collaboration that occurred between school officials and their local health counterparts. There were 400 participants involved in the highly successful event, and some who wished to attend had to be turned away. Summaries of presentations and other materials from the summit were provided for members of the joint subcommittee that were unable to attend.

Andrea Early, School Nutrition Program Director, Harrisonburg City Public Schools
Ms. Early presented an overview of how school nutrition programs are run, focusing on the financial aspects of the operations. She used her own school division as an example, telling the members about some of the healthier food choices it has made and providing the costs to implement these choices. Ms. Early discussed the federal and state reimbursement process and explained why districts with more students eligible for free and reduced-cost meals are often better able to avoid the financial setbacks that can occur when menu changes are made.

Other State Initiatives

Staff then gave a presentation detailing initiatives in other states designed to combat childhood obesity. The presentation was divided into four main areas:

  • Wellness policy implementation.
  • Data collection and reporting.
  • Physical education.
  • Nutrition.

The focus of the presentation was to provide the joint subcommittee with information and ideas for possible legislation during the 2008 Session.


The joint subcommittee then spent time discussing possible legislation. In the area of wellness policy implementation, some representatives of the education community stated that there is already sufficient follow-up on the state level on the issue and legislation is unnecessary. Federally required policies are already being submitted to the Department of Education, which will analyze the data.

Several members expressed embarrassment at realizing that Virginia was the only state other than Louisiana, which was in the midst of the Katrina disaster, that did not participate in the 2005 CDC survey on youth behaviors. Other members stated that steps were already being taken to involve Virginia in such a survey, without legislation. Several members expressed an interest in creating a best practices database, which would be available for all local school divisions to access with information on successful programs from various school divisions. The joint subcommittee saw this as a positive approach that would encourage school divisions to take steps to combat the problem of obesity without a state mandate.

In the area of physical activity, the members felt they really needed more information on what is currently being done across the state before discussing specific legislative proposals. The members asked that more specific information on physical education requirements and how they are being implemented by school districts be presented at the final meeting in November.

The members were all sensitive to the fact that any new nutrition mandates could place a serious financial burden on some school divisions; one suggested that any requirements should be accompanied by the appropriate resources. Members seemed to agree that it would be feasible to close the gap between the breakfast and lunch periods, when currently, competitive foods may be sold. They also expressed support for the Governor's Scorecard Program, and anything that could be done to encourage participation in the program.

Public Comment

Chuck Duvall, of the Virginia Beverage Association, gave a brief update on the effects of removing soft drinks from public schools. Faith Hecht, of Richmond Sports Backers, also spoke briefly about her organization and some of its programs aimed at getting kids to be more active.

Next Meeting

The joint subcommittee agreed to meet again in November to look more closely at physical education requirements in the Commonwealth and to finalize any legislative proposals.

The Hon. John O'Bannon, III

For information, contact:
Jessica Eades, Nikki Seeds Cheuk, DLS Staff


Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2007

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