On the campaign trail, candidate Obama pledged to create "more healthful environments for children" in schools. He emphasized assisting schools with local vendor contract policy development, supporting school-based health screening programs, and increasing financial support for physical education.
When we first reviewed the promise, we rated it In the Works, since the health care reform bill that Congress was considering would provide grants for school-based clinics to continue administering comprehensive health assessments as well as treatment for minor, acute and chronic medical conditions. It's been a while since we published the update, so we wanted to see how things have been unfolding.
President Obama signed the health care bill on March 23, 2010. Among other provisions, the law allocates $50 million per year for the creation of a four-year grant program to "support the operation of school-based health centers." The bill also directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services, who is to oversee the program, to give preference to centers that serve children who are eligible for coverage under the Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance programs.
That covers Obama's committment to support school screening programs. But what about the physical education and food vendor parts of the promise?
On April 21, 2010, the House of Representatives passed the FIT Kids Act. The bill would direct local education agencies to annually provide the families of their students with information on healthful eating habits, physical education, and physical activity, according to a Congressional Research Service summary. The bill is now sitting in the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.
The Obama administration is also encouraging school food vendors to make their products healthier. In February 2010, the companies Sodexho, Chartwells School Dining Services, and Aramark all promised to decrease sugar quantities within five years. The American Beverage Association also announced that it will start putting caloric information on individual bottles and cans, rather than only on the drink containers.
Moreover, the Department of Agriculture launched the "Chefs Move to Schools" initiative. The program is part of First Lady Michelle Obama's anti-obesity campaign, and encourages chefs to work with schools to educate students about healthy eating.
Finally, the 2011 budget proposal includes a request for $10 billion over ten years for the Child Nutrition and WIC reauthorization package. WIC is a federal program that helps low-income pregnant mothers and young infants by giving them voucher to buy healthy foods. The proposal has gotten mixed reception, however, as some critics argue that it would take a lot more money to have a real impact.
It's clear that President Obama's making progress on this promise, but there is still a ways to go. Senate has to pass the FIT Kids Act, Congress has to approve the President's budget proposal, and the grant program for school-based clinics is just getting started. We'll keep our eyes open, but for now, the rating remains In the Works.