In late 2003, recognizing effects of the obesity epidemic in North Carolina, HWTF Chair Lt. Governor Beverly Perdue spearheaded the establishment of a study committee on childhood obesity within HWTF. Dr. Olson Huff, Senator Bill Purcell and Representative Verla Insko were appointed to co-chair this effort. They were tasked with helping HWTF better understand the causes of this epidemic and, more importantly, to develop viable and practical recommendations for addressing this growing health concern in North Carolina. Committee members were carefully selected, and represented broad diversity – both professionally and geographically.
HWTF Solution (program description)
The study committee was specifically charged with investigating the causes of obesity among North Carolina’s children, as well as the socioeconomic issues associated with childhood obesity. To accomplish this goal, HWTF took a multipronged, fair and balanced approach that considered lessons learned from other states, and created a forum for all stakeholders to be heard. The inclusive nature of Fit Families NC involved representatives from (but not limited to): public health, education, academia, faith-based organizations, city/county government, and the beverage industry.
During 2004-2005, HWTF hosted seven Fit Families NC public hearings that covered pertinent topics. Over 350 recommendations were received during the year-long study committee process. Removing duplication, these recommendations were condensed to approximately 170 and organized into 13 different topical categories. Each category was then separated into one of two levels: 1) legislative policy proposals and 2) proposals for state and local agencies, organizations, trade groups etc.
The most notable accomplishment of Fit Families NC is that the following three legislative proposals to help solve the problem of childhood obesity in North Carolina schools were adopted as state policy:
- Physical Activity in Schools
- Based on a motion from Lt. Gov. Perdue, the State Board of Education voted unanimously to adopt a daily 30-minute physical activity requirement for all students, K-8. The first state in the nation to pass such a policy at the State Board Level, this requirement will be implemented in the 2006-2007 school year.
- Nutrition Standards in Schools (House Bill 855)
- Establishes a statewide nutrition standard for all school meals, a la carte items, beverages and the After School Snack Program in elementary, middle and high schools
- Decreases foods high in total fat, trans fat, saturated fat and sugar
- Increases foods containing fruits, vegetables and whole grain products
- Vending Standards in Schools (Senate Bill 961)
- Bans soft drink and snack vending sales in elementary schools altogether
- Prohibits sale of sugared carbonated beverages in middle schools
- Restricts sale of soft drinks in high schools to no more than 50% of drinks offered
- Requires that by 2006-2007 school year, 75% of snacks in middle and high schools have no more than 200 calories per package
- Moved North Carolina’s national ranking from the high 40’s to top 10
In October 2005, the study committee formally released its recommendations to the public (link to StudyCommitteeReport05.pdf). While its initial purpose has been met, Fit Families NC continues to further promote adoption and implementation of its recommendations by the appropriate agencies and organizations.
Key Accomplishments (outcomes to date)
Fit Families NC recommendations:
- SBE policy adopts improved Healthy Active Children policy in April 2005
- “Unfunded mandate” to be implemented by beginning of 2006-2007 school year
- HWTF funding to Be Active began May 2006
Outcomes based on Fit Families NC’s recommendations:
- NCGA passed law establishing statewide nutrition standard for all school meals, a la carte foods, beverages and the After School Snack Program in elementary, middle & high schools.
- NCGA passed law banning soft drink and snack vending sales in elementary schools altogether, prohibiting sale of sugared carbonated beverages in middle schools and limiting sale of soft drinks in high schools to no more than 50% of drinks offered.
- The State Board of Education (SBE) voted unanimously to adopt a daily 30-minute physical activity requirement for all K-8 students. North Carolina is the first in the nation to pass such a policy at the State Board level.