To the Editor:
The passage of the School Nutrition and Children Act is a crucial first step in educating the public about children’s nutrition and long-term health, and addressing the growing childhood obesity rates of our kids. The SNAC Act, which has been signed by Governor Pataki and is now Chapter 493 of the Laws of 2004, encourages the formation of school nutrition advisory committee in each school district.
The SNAC Act takes effect July 1, 2005, but community members and schools can organize interested parties now. Committee membership can "include, but not be limited to" school board representative, parents, PTA members, students, faculty, food preparation staff, physical education staff, school nurses or health staff members, and registered dietician.
I’ve spoken with many people, particularly parents, who feel that they don’t know enough about what their children are eating at school, or who are concerned because they know that highly sweetened or high-fat snacks and soda are available. This committee provides a perfect forum for citizens to voice their concerns and suggest positive changes.
Among the issues likely to arise in nutrition committees are providing more fresh fruits and vegetables during school breakfasts and lunches; changing a la carte selections to limit the availability of items like French fries, doughnuts and name-brand fast foods; substituting juices, water, milk and healthy snacks for the soda and candy now in many school vending machines; teaching nutrition as part of the curriculum; and the need for more scheduled exercise time for children in school.
I really hope to see a lot of student and parental involvement. Children can be helped or harmed by what they consume at school and the nutritional lessons they learn there. Childhood obesity is such a rampant problem today, with consequences like early onset diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. What kids learn about nutrition they also bring home. It’s wonderful to see kids get interested in these issues and then teach their parents about nutrition and exercise.
I hope that all New Yorkers will encourage their school districts to create a SNAC committee in the New Year.
New York State Assemblywoman