Press Release

Gillibrand Announces Plan to Ban Trans-Fats In Schools, Combat Childhood Obesity

Jul 22, 2009

Washington, D.C. – With health care reform the top priority for Congress, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is focusing her efforts on reducing childhood obesity, announcing a new plan to ban trans fats in school and provide healthier school lunches.  As the first New York Senator in 40 years to sit on the Senate Agriculture Committee, Senator Gillibrand is providing New Yorkers with a seat at the table as congress debates how to improve the health of children and the food they eat each day.  From her seat on the Committee, Senator Gillibrand is working to secure more federal funds for New York State to combat childhood obesity and lower health care costs.

Read Senator Gillibrand’s new county-by-county report on New York obesity rates.

“As Congress debates how to improve health care access and lower health care costs, we must also pursue a strategy to tackle childhood obesity and improve the health of our future generations,” Senator Gillibrand said.  “We can’t afford to let our children grow up in a culture of obesity.  If our children are going to have the opportunity to reach their potential, they need a healthy start. The most effective way to address obesity is to provide healthier food and exercise opportunities for our children. We need to be taking real steps to give parents, schools and communities the resources they need to give our children access to fresh fruits and vegetables.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over the last 30 years, obesity among American children ages six to 11 has more than doubled – from 6.5 percent to 17 percent. In the same timeframe, obesity among 12 to 19-year-olds has more than tripled – from five percent to nearly 18 percent.

Studies show that the most effective way to prevent obesity is to address it during childhood by instilling healthy habits. Obesity puts children at risk of developing serious diseases, including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and other conditions like depression. Obesity keeps children from performing their best at school. Studies show that being overweight or obese can have a negative effect on math and reading scores – and keeps students out of school for more sick days. According to a recent study by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, performance on standardized tests is strongly correlated to physical fitness levels.

Nearly 60 percent of New York adults are overweight or obese, according to a county-by-county report released by Senator Gillibrand’s office today.

  • In New York City, 55 percent of adults are overweight or obese;
  • In Western New York, 60 percent of adults are overweight or obese;
  • In the Rochester-Finger Lakes Region, 59 percent of adults are overweight or obese;
  • In Central New York, 59 percent of adults are overweight or obese;
  • In the Southern Tier, 61 percent of adults are overweight or obese;
  • In the Capital Region, 59 percent of adults are overweight or obese;
  • In the North Country, 62 percent of adults are overweight or obese;
  • In the Hudson Valley, 57 percent of adults are overweight or obese;
  • On Long Island, 54 percent of adults are overweight or obese.

Today, Senator Gillibrand unveiled her comprehensive plan to address obesity for the long term and help New York children lead long, successful, healthy lives.

First, Senator Gillibrand announced legislation that would ban trans fat in schools. Senator Gillibrand is authoring legislation that would ban trans-fats in public schools.  Any school that receives federal reimbursements would be required to remove food containing trans fat from the school.  Schools would have a five year window to implement the policy.  The legislation would also include waivers for pre-existing contracts and special circumstances.

New York City has been the national leader on this issue, banning trans fat in restaurants and phasing trans fats our of public schools. Now, Senator Gillibrand’s legislation will set the rest of the state and the rest of the country on the same path – ensuring that children are more likely to consume fresh fruits, vegetables, and other nutritious foods.

Second, Senator Gillibrand would reduce the junk food and snacks currently available in schools. She is working on legislation that would expand USDA authority to regulate all food served in schools, including vending machines. Working with Senator Tom Harkin, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Senator Gillibrand is pushing legislation that would force all food served on school grounds during school hours to meet federal nutritional standards. This legislation will strengthen regulations to enable the USDA to eliminate sugary sodas and candy from school during school hours, so that children are more likely to eat the fruits, vegetables, and other nutritious food served in cafeterias.

Third, Senator Gillibrand’s plan would increase the federal reimbursement rate for schools participating in the National School Lunch Program. The current reimbursement rates schools receive do not even keep pace with the rate of inflation. With the Child Nutrition Act set to expire this year, Senator Gillibrand will work to increase school reimbursements by 70 cents – from $2.57 per meal to $3.27 per meal – helping schools afford healthier meals. By providing more funding for school lunches, schools would have more resources to improve the nutritional content of meals and provide more fresh fruits and vegetables to children.

Senator Gillibrand’s plan would also provide targeted relief to high cost areas like New York City and other communities around the state, including Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Ulster, Orange, Putnam, Rockland and Dutchess Counties.  In the coming weeks, she will announce new legislation that addresses the unique challenges to schools in high cost areas.

Finally, Senator Gillibrand is introducing legislation that will result in more exercise opportunities for children and improve health care quality for children who are obese or suffer from other eating disorders.  The Improved Nutrition and Physical Activity Act – the IMPACT Act – would invest $60 million to provide grants for community-based health centers and organizations to help communities at high risk of fostering obesity. The investment would help jumpstart more physical activity and better nutrition to keep our kids active, healthy, and on track for the bright future they deserve.

Additionally, the IMPACT Act would invest $10 million to provide training grants to health profession students to help them recognize and properly deal with overweight, obesity and eating disorders. It would also provide direct help for those suffering from these disorders.