State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, has introduced a bill to help prevent childhood obesity by encouraging healthy eating and physical activity in after-school programs.
Senate Bill 949 establishes the California Distinguished After School Health (DASH) recognition program. It proposes standards for physical activity, “screen time,” and the serving of fruits and vegetables for after-school programs. After-school programs that meet these proposed requirements will be awarded a special “DASH” certification.
Under the bill, parents could access a list of “DASH”-certified programs on the State Department of Public Health’s website, and after-school programs could display their certification on-site.
“Childhood obesity is a challenge we should be tackling on a number of fronts,” Jackson said. “This bill is about rewarding and recognizing after school programs that are making that extra, vitally important effort to make children’s health a top priority. Good eating and exercise habits, when developed early, can add to the long-term quality of life and reduce the costs of healthcare later on.”
The bill limits television or computer “screen time” and requires fruits or vegetables be served as snacks on a daily basis; prohibits fried foods, candy or sugary or high sodium foods or foods with transfats; and permits water, low-fat or non-fat milk or 100 percent fruit juice, but no beverages with added sugars.
SB 949 also requires 30 minutes to an hour of physical activity a day and staff training on healthy eating and physical activity standards.
There are more than 4,400 publicly funded after-school programs in California serving more than 1.5 million children.
JC Holt, chair of the California State Alliance of YMCAs, the sponsor of SB 949, said, “I am excited that California is the first state to sponsor legislation recognizing distinguished after school programs for their healthy eating and physical activity standards. Childhood obesity remains an epidemic in California. SB 949 is an important step to encourage after school providers to teach and model a healthier lifestyle for California’s children.”
Despite a slight drop in recent years, California’s childhood obesity rate remains dangerously high. In California, one out of three children are obese or overweight. Obese children are at an increased risk of becoming obese adults and developing chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, depression and cancer.
The standards recommended in the bill are based on research and the Institute of Medicine’s Early Childhood Obesity Prevention policies and the National Afterschool Association’s standards.
DASH certifications would be valid for one year, but could be renewed each year if the program continues to meet the standards.
Jackson represents the 19th Senate District, which includes all of the Santa Barbara County and western Ventura County.
— Lisa Gardiner is the communications director for state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson.