The Montgomery County Council’s Health and Human Services (HHS) Committee at 10:45 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 31, will hold a worksession on how children’s meals at fast food and other types of restaurants contribute to obesity in children. The worksession will include a presentation from representatives of the nutrition policy section of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), which has produced a report entitled, “Kids’ Meals: Obesity on the Menu.”
The HHS Committee, which is chaired by Councilmember George Leventhal and includes Councilmembers Nancy Navarro and Craig Rice, will meet in the Seventh Floor Hearing Room of the Council Office Building at 100 Maryland Ave. in Rockville. The meeting will be televised live by County Cable Montgomery (CCM—Cable Channel 6 on Comcast and RCN, Channel 30 on Verizon). The broadcast also will be streamed through the County Web site at www.montgomerycountymd.gov
Margo Wootan, the director of nutrition policy for CSPI, will be among those attending the worksession. Also expected are Michaeline Fedder, president of MD HEAL (Maryland Healthy Eating and Active Lifestyle Coalition, Inc.); Melvin Thompson, senior vice president for governmental affairs and public policy for the Restaurant Association of Maryland; Joan Rector McGlockton, vice president for food policy for the National Restaurant Association; and Joy Dubost, director of nutrition for the National Restaurant Association.
The report "Kids' Meals: Obesity on the Menu" states that many restaurant chains offer menu items especially for, and marketed to, children. Research has shown that children consume on average 25 percent of their daily calories at fast-food and other restaurants, meaning the nutritional quality of those meals is important. The report investigates the types of children's menu items and the nutritional quality of children's meals at the largest restaurant chains in the United States.
Of the top 50 chains, nine (18 percent) did not have dedicated children's menu items or meals. Of the 41 chains with children's items, 34 (83 percent) offered children's meal combinations and provided adequate information for nutrition analyses. The report assesses the nutritional quality of all possible children's meal combinations against a set of standards developed by a panel of nutrition and health experts, and against the National Restaurant Association's (NRA) Kids LiveWell standards.
Of the 3,494 meal combinations, 97 percent do not meet the expert nutrition standards for children's meals and 91 percent do not meet the NRA's Kids LiveWell standards. Nineteen of the restaurant chains offering children's meals (56 percent) do not have even one meal that meets the expert nutrition standards and nine chains (26 percent) do not have one meal that meets the Kids LiveWell standards.
At 10 a.m. in the Seventh Floor Hearing Room, the HHS Committee and the Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee, which is chaired Councilmember Navarro and includes Councilmembers Valerie Ervin and Hans Riemer, will receive an update on efforts to develop a wellness program for County Government employees.
County Government Wellness Program Manager Brenda Salas previously discussed with the joint committee the steps she was taking to develop the wellness program. She has shared her initial analysis of 2012 direct medical costs, noting that claims data showed that 43 percent of expenditures were for musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, metabolic/endocrine and digestive disorders. She noted that many of these are "lifestyle disorders" and have risk factors such as obesity, lack of physical exercise, poor diet and smoking.
The worksession will include a discussion on the next steps toward implementing a wellness program.
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