WASHINGTON - New York First Lady Michelle Paige Paterson and health advocates Thursday pressed Congress to fight childhood obesity by requiring schools to replace sugary sodas and snacks with healthier options.
"We need federal policies, standards, regulations and commitments that help make the healthy option the easy choice for New Yorkers and all Americans," Paterson told a House Education and Labor subcommittee.
Schools should "promote healthy behaviors," Paterson said. Instead, students are bombarded with poor choices on campus, including salty snacks in vending machines and candy in fundraising sales, she said.
"Too often, in too many schools, students see high-calorie, low-nutrient foods and beverages, often coupled with aggressive marketing and advertising," Paterson said.
Paterson's testimony comes as Congress prepares legislation that would reauthorize a host of federal school-nutrition programs before they expire Sept. 30.
Some lawmakers want to use the measure to combat the growing waistlines of the nation's youth. About one-third of U.S. children and adolescents are obese or overweight, according to the House Education and Labor panel.
Proposals include new nutritional standards limiting the allowable fat, sugar and sodium content in school-served food - no matter where it is dished up. Right now, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's authority - and nutritional guidelines - generally cover only cafeteria offerings, not foods offered elsewhere on campus, such as in vending
machines, at snack shops and during extracurricular activities.
Rep. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., a member of the Education and Labor panel who questioned Paterson at Thursday's hearing, said he isn't sure of the best approach - but he is convinced something needs to be done to encourage healthier lifestyles with the nation's youngest