WASHINGTON — First Lady Michelle Obama, a champion of measures to fight childhood obesity in the United States, welcomed passage in Congress Thursday of a law aimed at improving the quality of school meals.
The House of Representatives earlier passed The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, following passage by the Senate. The bill now awaits President Barack Obama’s signature to become law.
It allows the federal government to encourage schools, through subsidies, to serve students meals that respect nutritional standards set by the National Academy of Sciences.
Michelle Obama called the bill a “groundbreaking piece of bipartisan legislation that will significantly improve the quality of meals that children receive at school and will play an integral role in our efforts to combat childhood obesity.
“I am confident that, together, we can turn the tide on childhood obesity and give all our children the happy, healthy lives they deserve,” the president’s wife added.
Obama, a former vice president of a Chicago hospital, launched her “Let’s Move” initiative in February to combat obesity after spending her first year in the White House focusing on childhood health.
Her program is designed to encourage US schools to improve the quality of school meals, offer more kids more physical activity and education on good nutrition and healthy eating.
She has also planted an organic garden on the grounds of the presidential residence and participated in physical activities with US students.
Around 32 percent of US children and teenagers are overweight or obese, according to the latest data. Nearly 20 percent of children aged six to 11 and 18 percent of those aged 12-19 are obese.
A study by leading US health care provider Kaiser Permanente in March showed that more US children are becoming extremely obese at a younger age, putting them at risk of dying decades younger than normal-weight children.
Two retired generals have also warned that increasing rates of obesity among young Americans could undermine the future of the military, with many potential recruits increasingly too fat to serve.