Public Release: 

Food supply and nutrition education for children

New position statement by the American Dietetic Association says food and nutrition programs are essential to health of children and adolescents

American Dietetic Association

CHICAGO - A position statement by the American Dietetic Association urges that all children have access to a safe and adequate food supply. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 11.6 million children and adolescents, or 16 percent of the population under the age 18, lived in poverty in 2000. Children and adolescents who live in poverty are more likely to experience food insecurity - limited or uncertain availability of nutrient-dense food - and hunger.

The full statement: "Child and adolescent food and nutrition programs" is published in the July issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

The position statement is as follows:

It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that all children and adolescents, regardless of age; gender; socioeconomic status; racial, ethnic or linguistic diversity; or health status, should have access to food and nutrition programs that ensure the availability of a safe and adequate food supply that promotes optimal physical, cognitive and social growth and development. Appropriate food and nutrition programs include food assistance and meal programs, nutrition education initiatives and nutrition screening and assessment followed by appropriate nutrition intervention and anticipatory guidance to promote optimal nutrition status.

"Food and nutrition programs serve not only to combat children's hunger and food insecurity, but also as a vehicle for providing kids with nutrition education and promoting physical activity," said registered dietitian and ADA spokesperson Rachel Brandeis. "This is instrumental in preventing excess weight and chronic diseases associated with weight problems."

A dilemma faced by nutrition and health professionals is that increasing rates of obesity among children are occurring at the same time many children and adolescents in the U.S. experience food insecurity and hunger. Fewer than 1 percent of American children and adolescents consume the minimum number of servings from all of the food groups in the Food Guide Pyramid and nearly 25 percent of all vegetables consumed by children and adolescents are french fries.

"Children and adolescents who do not consume adequate nutrients are at risk for a variety of health-related conditions including slow growth rates, iron deficiency anemia and chronic diseases such as heart disease and osteoporosis," Brandeis said.

ADA's position statement provides a detailed overview of various child and adolescent food and nutrition programs, including:

  • Food Stamp Nutrition Program
  • Children nutrition programs: National School Lunch Program; School Breakfast Program; Child and Adult Care Program; Summer Food Service Program and the Special Milk Program
  • Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants and Children
  • Federal food donation programs: Food Distribution on Indian Reservations; Temporary Emergency Food Assistance; Food Donations to Soup Kitchens and Food Banks; Disaster Feeding; Nutrition Service Incentives
  • Nutrition Education Programs and Related Initiatives
  • Food and Nutrition Programs during Welfare Reform

"Food and nutrition programs play a major role in educating children and adolescents about the importance of a healthful eating plan," said Brandeis. "Dietetics professionals should be advocates for all groups and individuals working with children and adolescents."

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The Journal of the American Dietetic Association is the official research publication of the American Dietetic Association and is the premier peer-reviewed journal in the field of dietetics and nutrition.

With nearly 70,000 members, the American Dietetic Association is the world's largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. Based in Chicago, ADA serves the public by promoting optimal nutrition, health and well-being. Visit ADA at http://www.eatright.org.

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