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Stories

A collection of expert commentaries about the impact of policies and programs, interviews with researchers about data releases, stories of communities taking action, and reports from places that have measured a decline in childhood obesity rates.

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Preventing Childhood Obesity: What Will it Take?

“We are at a moment in our history where because of this crisis, we can change policies that will truly change the nature of our communities. We can transform our cities and towns into communities of opportunity and not communities that lead to the health consequences we’re seeing today.”

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Expert Perspective

Why Drinking Water Quality Matters

In recognition of Water Quality Month, we spoke with two experts on the importance of water quality and access to clean water in the U.S.

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California school meals food truck
Community Story

Playing the “long game of child nutrition” in North Sacramento, California

In North Sacramento, California, the Natomas Unified School District has served more than a million meals since the pandemic started--in great part due to USDA-issued COVID-19 waivers that allowed the district the flexibility to serve more meals to more kids.

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A woman unloads food from a bus
Community Story

Summer Meals Help Students Eat Healthy in Burke County, Georgia

Burke County Public Schools in Waynesboro, Georgia is committed to combatting food insecurity during the summer months by feeding kids healthy meals when school is not in session.

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Students pack lunches
Community Story

Baltimore Public Schools Keep Innovating to Serve Millions of Kids Across the City

Nearly a quarter of Baltimore’s young residents struggle with food insecurity. Since the pandemic started, Baltimore City Public Schools have made it their mission to ensure that local families across the city never have to worry about a lapse in access to food.

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Expert Perspective

Confronting the Challenges of Transforming Public Health

Dr. Richard Besser, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Tom Vilsack, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary, discuss SNAP, and the country's plan to improve food access for the future.

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Girl drinks beverage
Report

Protecting Kids from Harmful Food and Beverage Advertising

We spoke with the lead authors of a new report "Big Food, Big Tech, and the Global Childhood Obesity Pandemic" about how food and beverage companies have seized on the pandemic as an opportunity to promote their unhealthy products to children and teens.

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Community Story

WIC Gives Families a Sense of Relief Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented increases in unemployment and hunger, underscoring how vital the WIC program is for families and provides various supports to mothers and their children. Hear from families how WIC gave them relief during uncertain times.

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Jamie Bussel and Dr. Mary Story discuss school meals
Community Story

How School Meals Help Families Impacted by the Pandemic

School meals are a lifeline to tens of millions of families across the country. Learn about new research on how healthy meals benefit kids—and why school meal programs must be supported, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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A group of kids hold vegetables
Community Story

Seattle Nonprofit Alleviates Hunger with Funding from Sugary Drink Tax

Seattle's sugary drink tax helps expand programming that increases access to healthy food and supports early youth health. Tilth Alliance is one of the many non-profit and community-based organizations that receives funding through the City of Seattle and sugary drink tax revenue.

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Q&A

Impact‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌COVID-19 Pandemic‌ ‌on‌ ‌Childhood‌ ‌Obesity‌ ‌

COVID-19, and the economic consequences of the pandemic, may be increasing the risk for childhood obesity. Experts speak about how COVID-19 might influence childhood obesity rates in the future.

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Community Story

New Data Compares Latest Child Obesity Rates By Age, Gender, and Race

Nearly one in five young people in the United States has obesity. Data from the 2017-2018 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) shows the drastic differences in child obesity rates across age, gender, and racial and ethnic groups.

Explore the Data
Community Story

Home Visits May Help Prevent Obesity Among Young Native American Children

Native American children suffer from high rates of obesity which puts them at greater risk for severe consequences from COVID-19. A study found that nutrition-focused home-visiting intervention programs have an impact on infant's health and decreases risk of early childhood obesity.

Read about the study
Woman directs traffic at COVID-19 food pick up site
Expert Perspective

Innovative Heroes, Ensuring No Child or Family Goes Hungry During COVID-19

When COVID-19 hit, these school nutrition professionals showed up strong to help provide healthy foods to children and families. Read their inspirational stories.

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Graphic examples of community disinvestment
Expert Perspective

Building Community Power to Limit Marketing of Sugary Drinks

Taking on the beverage industry’s marketing of sugary drinks to kids is one of Xavier’ Morales' passions. Learn more about his work to help communities create policies that prioritize health and equity.

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Mother and child holding a tomato at the grocery store
Expert Perspective

How WIC Has Changed During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Brian Dittmeier and Georgia Machell of the National WIC Association explain how WIC is adapting in response to the COVID-19 crisis and changes that are needed going forward.

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YMCA staff member engages preschoolers in physical activity
Community Story

Berkeley Residents Fund Healthy Programs with Soda Tax Revenues

The city of Berkeley, CA, uses revenue collected by a tax on sugary drinks to fund programs that teach children and families healthy habits and the health harms of consuming sugary beverages.

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Families pick up school meals at a food distribution site.
Community Story

School Meals Are a Lifeline for America’s Kids and Families

Families across America rely on school meals and millions were left without a regular source of nutrition when COVID-19 forced schools closed. Read their stories.

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Young girl smiling while drinking from her water bottle
Expert Perspective

Policy Changes Can Prevent Kids from Consuming Sugary Drinks

Dr. Sara Bleich, obesity prevention researcher, shares insights from her research related to kids' consumption of sugary drinks.

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Expert Perspective

Preventing Childhood Obesity: What Will it Take?

Dr. Richard Besser, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Jamie Bussel, senior program officer, discuss COVID-19, childhood obesity, and how the country needs to address these challenges.

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A man rides a bike

New Data Compares Adult Obesity Rates Across States

Adult obesity rates vary significantly across states, according to data published today in the State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America, a new report from Trust for America’s Health (TFAH).

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People buying groceries while wearing masks
Community Story

Seattle’s Sugary Drink Tax Helps Feed Local Families Hit Hardest by COVID-19

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Seattle’s sugary drink tax has put $5 million worth of grocery vouchers into the hands of those who need them most.

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Volunteers packaging food at a WIC office
Community Story

WIC: Virtual Services and Partnerships Address Nutrition Needs and More

The St. Joseph’s WIC program in Paterson, New Jersey innovates new methods to help participants receive health referral and healthy food services amid the COVID-19 pandemic, contributing to their need to live a healthy life.

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A mother holds her child in an outdoor park
Q&A

Infant and Toddler Milk Companies Spend Millions Targeting Caregivers With Dubious Nutritional Claims—and it’s Working

Companies widely market unhealthy drinks for young children, but upcoming dietary guidelines will for the first time include nutrition recommendations for children under age 2.

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Boy selecting item in lunch line

To Help Recover from COVID-19, We Need Universal Free School Meals

Free school meals for every student would reduce uncertainty for families and ease burdens on schools.

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Sugary Drink Marketing Targets Youth at Greatest Risk for Obesity

New priority issue page highlights the latest research on sugary drink marketing, how it targets youth who are at risk for obesity and policy options for reducing consumption.

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Supporting Child Nutrition During the Pandemic

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many families have been struggling to find ways to feed their children healthy, affordable foods. Changes to several federal nutrition programs could better support families during this ongoing crisis.

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Q&A

Supporting a Healthy Early Childhood During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has made administering nutrition programs like WIC more challenging. We spoke to the National WIC Association and Food Research & Action Center to better understand how WIC is responding to the pandemic.

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Three children enjoying healthy snacks at school

Coronavirus and Nutrition: Feeding Children During the Pandemic

Two new research briefs offer recommendations for prioritizing specific changes to SNAP in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. A recent media briefing explored how best to feed children during the pandemic.

See priorities for SNAP
Image of man selecting food in food bank.

Food Banks Respond to Surge in Demand

During the uncertain times of the coronavirus pandemic, families are enduring serious hardships of job and childcare lose, and even hunger. There is a growing number of people who are unable to afford food. Food banks have become an essential resource, on the front lines daily providing support to families across the country.

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Community Story

Serving School Meals in Challenging Times

Schools across the country are working to serve healthy meals during the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about some of the strategies school leaders are using.

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Q&A

The Impact of Changing SNAP and School Meals During COVID-19

A discussion with Giridhar Mallya of RWJF to better understand how recent coronavirus relief legislation impacts SNAP and school meals, as well as some of the longer-term proposals in both areas.

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adult obesity rate trend

New Adult Obesity Rate Data

New data show that the adult obesity rate in the United States is 42.4%, and that disparities persist across race and ethnicity.

Read a Summary of Data
Community Story

Eastern Washington Schools Make Meals Healthier

Eastern Washington School Districts and Chef LJ Klinkenberg have made it their mission to get healthy and tasty food meals served in schools. Since starting their work, obesity rates have dropped.

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Q&A

A Closer Look at Food Insecurity

An estimated 40 million Americans - including 12.5 million children- are living in food shortage areas. We sat down with Elaine Waxman, senior fellow at the Urban Institute about their new interactive tool mapping food insecurity across the countru.

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Q&A

Unhealthy Drinks Dominate Children’s Drink Sales

It's hard to tell healthy and unhealthy children's drinks apart, so it is important to have the facts to make the healthiest decision possible. This interview with the Rudd Center shares findings from a recent report on the nutrition content of and marketing behind children's drinks.

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Highlights of recent changes to nutrition facts label

New Year, New Nutrition Facts Label

On January 1, an updated Nutrition Facts label took effect covering all food and beverage products from manufacturers with more than $10 million in sales. Read a post from Jamie Bussel of RWJF about the change and what it means for families.

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Local Farmers Pick-to-Order for Spokane’s Youngest Kids

No matter where you go in Spokane, you’ll find a well-connected community that cares deeply about children’s health. Growing a local “farm-to-ECE” movement is one way this community is helping its kids grow up at a healthy weight.

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Q&A

Healthy Drinks Matter for Healthy Kids

Megan Lott, deputy director of Healthy Eating Research and lead author of the Healthy Beverage Consumption in Early Childhood report shares recommendations about which drinks are best for infants and young kids to drink, as well as which ones to avoid.

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Q&A

Increasing Healthy Food Options in Vending Machines

There are nearly 4 million vending machines in U.S. schools, hospitals, apartment buildings, and other places where kids spend time. Thanks to a new public health commitment, beginning January 1, 2020, they will include “better for you” products.

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Little girl eating

Washington State Prioritizes Healthier Standards in Early Learning Settings

Washington state's Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition helps early care and education providers serve healthy meals statewide by advocating for strong nutrition requirements.

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Mayor Ron Nirenberg of San Antonio, Texas.
Expert Perspective

Building a More Equitable San Antonio

Mayor Ron Nirenberg and his team are committed to finding policy solutions to build a more inclusive and equitable San Antonio, Texas.

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Expert Perspective

The Power of Community Partnerships

Pediatrician and epidemiologist Renee Boynton-Jarrett shares that addressing childhood obesity simply can't happen only in a clinical environment. Solutions to the epidemic need to be accessible in all of the places where children live, learn, and play.

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Community Story

A Community Chooses Water First for Thirst

In the capital city of Columbus, where about 1 in 4 kids who enter kindergarten are overweight or have obesity, advocates and organizations have been working together to provide kids with the earliest possible opportunities to develop healthy habits. That means focusing on kids from birth to age 5.

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Letter

A Letter From Dr. Rich Besser

Richard Besser, MD, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, shares the Foundation's commitment to reducing rates of childhood obesity.

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Young kids exercising in PE class
Q&A

How Childhood Obesity Rates Have Changed Over Time

Childhood obesity rates have risen a lot in 40 years, but in the last decade, they've been leveling off. In this interview, Diane Schazenbach shares new insights about how rates have changed over time among different children.

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Kids in Texas playing on a water slide.
Q&A

Boosting Physical Activity in Rural Communities with Play Streets

Physical activity is important for our health—especially for children. But in rural communities—where there may be fewer resources, sidewalks, playgrounds, and parks—there often are fewer opportunities for kids to engage in the kind of physical activity that keeps them healthy and happy. Play Streets is one solution.

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Father and son picking produce
Q&A

How WIC Gives Children a Healthy Start, Preventing Obesity in Early Childhood

New data show obesity rates among 2- to 4-year-olds enrolled in WIC continue to decline. We sat down with Georgia Machell of the National WIC Association and Jim Weill of FRAC for their insights about the new data and the value of WIC.

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Young girl sits at her desk writing on a piece of paper.

School Meals Are Essential to Kids’ Health

Federal nutrition programs help ensure that children and families nationwide, especially those in low-income communities, have greater access to healthy foods and enough to eat. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Jamie Bussel explains how programs like WIC and school meals are essential to kids’ health.

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boy in lunch line at school
Q&A

Updated School Nutrition Standards Are Effective

A 2019 USDA study found that school meals are considerably healthier under the updated school nutrition standards. We spoke with The Lunch Tray’s Bettina Elias Siegel about her thoughts on the study.

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Girl biking on a street path.
Success Story

Supporting Healthy Kids and Communities Through Safe Routes to School in Minnesota

In Minnesota, strong support for Safe Routes to Schools programs has benefited nearly 500 schools and helped reach 110,000 students every two years.

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Girl hiking up mountain
Q&A

Cultivating Healthy Communities in Appalachia

Obesity and obesity-related chronic illnesses are significantly higher in Appalachian counties than elsewhere. A new report from the Appalachian Regional Commission examines how the region is approaching this challenge.

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Vegetables
Success Story

Extending the Reach of Healthy Food Initiatives

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates 40 million people live in neighborhoods without access to fresh, affordable and nutritious food options, making them “food insecure.” Residents of these communities typically rely on fast food restaurants and convenience stores that offer little to no fresh food.

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Q&A

How Food Marketing Contributes to Health Disparities

The vast majority of TV food ads targeting Black and Hispanic audiences are for unhealthy products. A new report shows what impact that could have on health disparities.

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Two young boys running outside.
Q&A

Investing in Physical Activity at School

Schools play an important role in helping kids lead active, healthy lives. We spoke with Emma Sanchez from San Francisco State University who has led work to learn more from elementary schools that are making it a priority to help students get at least 60 minutes of daily activity.

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John Auerbach, Renee Boynton-Jarrett, Jamie Bussel and Ruth Petersen on the hill speaking about childhood obesity.
Event

On the Hill

Nearly 100 advocates, nutritionists, researchers, Congressional staff members and others gathered on Capitol Hill for The State of Obesity 2018 Congressional Briefing in late February.

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Q&A

How State Policies Can Make it Easier to be Active

Physical activity can help children and adults reap widespread health benefits. The Safe Routes to School National Partnership produces a 50-state scan examining how state policies support or hinder walking and biking in communities and the school setting.

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Family shopping at the grocery store.
Q&A

A Conversation: The Important Role Food & Beverage Companies Play

Jamie Bussel and Victoria Brown, RWJF Program Officers, talk about the first-ever U.S. Access to Nutrition Index.

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National map of obesity rates for youth ages 10 to 17

New Data: State Policies to Prevent Obesity

Strong state policies play a critical role in preventing obesity and promoting health. Updated in January 2019, this interactive feature includes the latest data about individual state requirements in early childhood education settings, schools and communities.

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Commentary

Survey of U.S. High School Students

In June 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new data from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System about high school students’ health behaviors. We asked Holly Hunt, Chief, CDC’s Healthy Schools, to provide some insight about the latest survey.

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Map of the United States showing obesity rates for children ages 10- to 17
Commentary

New Youth Obesity Rate Data

The Health Resources and Services Administration’s Maternal and Child Health Bureau (HRSA MCHB) funds and directs the annual National Survey of Children’s Health, which includes the new national and state-by-state obesity rate data for youth ages 10 to 17.

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