June 13, 2012

Manchin Measure Would Help Prevent Childhood Obesity

Amendment to Farm Bill would require first-ever nutritional guidelines for children ages 0-2

West Va. ranks 10th in the nation for childhood obesity, at 18.9 percent 

Washington, D.C. – With childhood obesity rates at record highs, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) introduced an amendment today to help children develop healthy eating habits. His bipartisan amendment, co-sponsored by Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), would require the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture to develop, implement and promote national dietary guidelines for pregnant women and children between the ages zero and 2. No such standards exist currently. 

“The fact is that we need to give people better tools to keep their kids healthy – and right now, some parents mean well but don’t have the information they need to make the right decisions,” Senator Manchin said. “The food that our children eat affects how they learn, which will affect how they can contribute to our society. If we want to stay competitive, we have to keep ourselves healthy and strong. On top of that, giving our children a healthy start in life is more important now than ever, as we continue to see rising obesity rates among our youth and causing tremendous health problems as they get older.” 

According to the Trust for America’s Health, the average obesity rate in West Virginia for adults from 2008-2010 was 32.2 percent, the third highest in the nation. During that same time, the rate of diabetes in West Virginia was 12 percent, the second highest in the nation. In 2007, the obesity rate among children was 18.9 percent, the 10th highest in the nation. 

Every five years, the USDA and HHS jointly publish the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The guidelines provide evidence-based nutrition information intended to promote good health and reduce the risk of obesity and chronic diseases for Americans ages 2 and older. These guidelines serve as the basis for federal nutrition policy, education, outreach, and food assistance programs. They are also used by consumers, industry, nutrition educators and health professionals. 

Although children younger than 2 years old have unique nutritional needs, there are currently no science-based, government-established dietary guidelines for children at this stage of life.  Research shows that the foods and beverages offered to infants help set the foundations of their eating patterns later in life, and that exposing children to healthy foods at an early age will increase their preference for these foods down the road. Including dietary guidelines for children ages 0-2 in future updates of the Dietary Guidelines for America will ensure that parents have specific nutrition recommendations for their children and are able to actively participate in obesity prevention efforts. 

The Manchin amendment is supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Heart Association. 


Senator Manchin has worked hard over his career to help West Virginia’s children lead healthier lives. As Governor, he enacted the Healthy Lifestyles Act of 2005. The state bill declared a commitment to students’ health care and healthier lifestyles by:

  • Putting physical education and exercise back in the required curriculum for every West Virginia student in grades K through 12;

  • Prohibiting the sale of soft drinks to elementary and middle school students during school hours and requiring high schools that enter into contracts to sell soft drinks in vending machines to make an equal amount of healthy beverages available to students;

  • Teaching students the importance of healthy eating and physical activity to maintain a healthy weight as part of the state health education curriculum;

  • Collecting BMI measurements using an active consent process by the Coronary Artery Risk Detection in Appalachian Communities (CARDIAC) Project for kindergarten, second, and fifth-grade students.