The policies that affect child care settings, schools and communities are critical for helping children grow up at a healthy weight, as are the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and other federal nutrition assistance programs that millions of families rely on. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation offers specific recommendations that can serve as a set of priorities as federal, state and local leaders work to address the nation’s childhood obesity epidemic.
Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program
• Congress should increase WIC funding to extend eligibility to postpartum mothers through the first two years after the birth of a baby, and to children through the age of 6 to align with participation in school meal programs.
• Congress should fund the WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counseling Program at its full authorized amount of $90 million to ensure mothers have access to critical supports.
• Congress should continue to support and fund efforts to streamline and modernize WIC services through technology, including achieving the congressional mandate for all states to achieve WIC Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) by 2020.
• USDA should maintain the scientific integrity of the WIC food package process as USDA undertakes the Congressionally mandated 10-year cycle revision.
• The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services should continue to support and reimburse WIC for its role in lead screening.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and related economic crisis, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation urges these actions to prevent hunger and even larger increases in poverty:
Raise the maximum SNAP benefit level by 15 percent for the duration of the economic downturn.
Remove the 3-month time limit on SNAP benefits for unemployed adults who are not raising minor children for the duration of the economic downturn.
Stop implementation of new regulatory changes that would decrease SNAP benefits or take SNAP benefits away from 4 million people.
For states, implement the various strategies that Congress has authorized for increasing SNAP benefits and streamlining eligibility and enrollment rules.
Longer term the following actions can maintain and strengthen SNAP and its impact:
Increase SNAP benefits by 20 percent to enhance anti-hunger and anti-poverty effects while reforming the underlying system of calculating food costs and benefit amounts.
Avoid funding cuts and eligibility restrictions that would reduce enrollment and/or benefit levels.
Double investments in SNAP-Ed (the Supplemental Nutrition Education Program-Education) and financial incentive programs to encourage SNAP participants to purchase more fruits and vegetables and help them make healthier purchases.
School Meals and Snacks
• Maintain nutrition standards for school meals that were in effect prior to USDA’s final rule from December 2018 (whole grains/sodium/milk), and current nutrition standards for school snacks.
• Continue to implement and expand the Community Eligibility Provision that allows schools in high-poverty areas to serve free meals to all students, regardless of family income.
• States should implement nutrition standards that strengthen the federal standards.
• USDA should expand guidance and technical assistance to support schools in meeting updated nutrition standards and managing new school kitchen equipment.
USDA and HHS should work with the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee to:
• Maintain the scientific integrity of the Dietary Guidelines.
• Extend the Dietary Guidelines (currently under revision) to children under age 2, taking into account the most recent science including: Feeding Guidelines for Infant and Young Toddlers: A Responsive Parenting Approach and Healthy Beverage Consumption in Early Childhood: Recommendations from Key National Health and Nutrition Organizations.
Child and Adult Food Care Program (CACFP)
• CACFP should be expanded to allow the option of a third meal service.
• CACFP should continue streamlining program operations and paperwork to allow for easier enrollment.
• CACFP should continue to fund nutrition and wellness education and program efforts.
Head Start and Early Head Start
• Head Start and Early Head Start should be adequately resourced, so that the programs are stabilized and can hire, retain and support high quality staff.
• Head Start and Early Head Start programs should expand access for the nation’s most vulnerable families, especially for infants and toddlers.
Food Marketing to Children
• States and local education agencies should support and implement the provision that all food and beverage advertisements on school campuses meet Smart Snacks nutrition guidelines during the school day–expand to include all forms of marketing (brand).
• The Federal Trade Commission should resume issuing reports examining food marketing to children.
• Restaurants should take soda and other sugary drinks off of kids menus and menu boards.
• State policymakers should oppose legislation limiting the ability of cities and counties to regulate, tax or otherwise enact legislation stronger than state laws related to children’s health and healthy communities.
• State policymakers should support the repeal of existing state laws limiting the ability of cities and counties to regulate, tax or otherwise enact legislation stronger than state law related to children’s health and healthy communities.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
• CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity should have adequate resources to support grants to all 50 states to implement multi sector campaigns to address obesity.
• The CDC’s REACH program should have adequate resources to support programs across the country working to racial and ethnic health disparities.
Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Standards in Early Care and Education
• States should include healthy eating and physical activity requirements in quality ratings and/or credentialing for early care and education centers.
Priority Obesity-Prevention Policies
Strong policies can play a key role in helping children grow up healthy. Learn about national policy efforts to improve access to healthy foods, support physical activity and more.
This interactive feature tracks the status of each state’s efforts on more than 20 policies aimed at preventing obesity and supporting health in early childhood, schools and communities.