April 4, 2007

An Apple A Day Isn't Enough

By Senator Lena C. Taylor

As we conclude National Nutrition Month, it is vital that we all recognize the nutritional health crisis facing our community.  Studies show that our children are not receiving the proper nutrition necessary to perform their best in school.  We as adults are also coming up short, often ignoring the dietary needs that would help us lead longer and healthier lives.

A recent study showed that students, who eat a healthy breakfast before starting school increase their math and reading scores, have increased attention, are less like7ly to visit the school nurse, and have remarkable better behaviors. Sadly, well over 40% of children do not even eat breakfast.  It therefore falls to us, as parents and members of the community to educate ourselves, and our children, about the importance of proper nutrition.

I was also shocked to learn that according to the United States Center for Disease Control, 60% of Wisconsin adults are overweight or obese. Worse still, a recent report showed that 27,400 of our community's youth are overweight and 37,850 youth are at risk for becoming overweight. Over forty percent of children who are obese at the age of seven become obese adults.

In order to avoid these health risks, it is important to eat right and be physically active. This includes choosing more fruits and vegetables, choosing whole grains, eating breakfast, watching portion sizes, and replacing sugar sweetened beverages with water. It is also important to be physically active at least 5 days a week.

The Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services suggests at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day for adults and at least 60 minutes per day for children. This physical activity can easily be incorporated into your daily routine by doing yard work or walking to lunch instead of driving. And lastly, for both children and adults, it is extremely important to decrease TV viewing time.

As a mother, I understand the difficulties of ensuring proper nutrition.  Too often there is barely enough time to get our children to school, let alone provide them with the foods they need.  That is why I have been a big supporter of programs that provide breakfast and other good nutrition in our schools.  The current budget provides some funding for these initiatives, but there will always be a need for more.  

If you are looking for educational programs or food assistance services, there are several available to Milwaukee residents. Call (414) 286-3619 and a county health official can help you.  A healthy lifestyle is a choice you must make, but there is help available.

Our future and our kids future is on the line.  If we do the right thing now, we can help prevent heart disease, diabetes, and a variety of other illnesses that result from improper nutrition. We owe it to ourselves and our children to promote active, healthy lifestyles now.