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Bills aimed at curbing childhood obesity

New legislation would help to make fresh food, like the fruits and vegetables offered at local farmers markets, above, more available to children in areas with high obesity rates.
September 23, 2013
In response to a study by the Independent Democratic Conference naming the Bronx as the county with the worst obesity problem in New York, Sen. Jeff Klein and Assemblyman Marcos Crespo, both Bronx Democrats, are pushing for new legislation this spring to reduce childhood obesity.

Crespo acknowledges one of the biggest factors leading to childhood obesity in New York is the scarce access to fresh and nutritious food for young people.

"Throughout human history food has been a scarcity. Today and in our state, food insecurity and reliance on food with low nutritional value are commonplace," Crespo said. "Both of these factors combine to make New York a leading state facing an obesity epidemic, especially impacting its children and youth."

Three separate bills aim to reduce the obesity epidemic in New York state: bill S.2438/A.06628, would increase the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables in areas with a high-incidence of obesity; bill S.2439/A.02893, would expand the wellness education programs that combat childhood obesity and promote healthy living; and bill S.2372/A.03743, seeks to provide New Yorkers with more local, wholesome produce through the increased presence of community gardens.

"Making healthy, affordable food options readily available to high-risk communities, while increasing access to physical exercise are critical to reversing this trend," Klein said. "These bills will not only streamline coordination between state agencies to better address obesity, but also will create health food and exercise marketing campaigns targeted at high-risk populations."

One group aimed specifically at promoting the use of community gardens in New York is 596 Acres, whose entire mission is helping communities gain access to public land.

"I have seen firsthand the impact this transformation has made in increasing the health, well being and physical activity amongst Bronx residents," said Karen Washington, a representative for 596 Acres and the New York City Community Garden Coalition. "One quick solution in the war against obesity, diabetes and heart disease is growing your own food. I support Senator Klein in his efforts to see that Bronx residents have access to land to grow a healthy vibrant Bronx community."

Celebrity personal trainer Donovan Green agrees with the proposed legislation to expand wellness education programs, citing it as something that can be used to help combat obesity in children.

"It's critical for young people to develop healthy exercise habits early on, something that oftentimes develops by following the example set by your parents," Green said. " Increasing access to comprehensive wellness programs that help adults with stress, nutrition and physical exercise offers adults an effective way of confronting obesity head on."

With more focus on healthy eating and wellness programs for young New Yorkers, Klein is optimistic about the future of children's health in New York.

"Our legislative package…will improve the health outcomes for New Yorkers and help to ensure that our next generation develops healthy habits necessary for a stronger future."

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