Commentary: Child Nutrition Act is an important first step

On Monday, President Barack Obama signed into law a $4.5 billion measure that aims to make school meals more nutritious and expands the reach of lunches and dinners to more children. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act is one component of the administration’s ongoing efforts to combat childhood obesity, while simultaneously fighting hunger.

At the signing, First Lady Michelle Obama, who launched a national campaign earlier this year against childhood obesity, said: "We can all agree that in the wealthiest nation on earth all children should have the basic nutrition they need to learn and grow and to pursue their dreams. Because in the end, nothing is more important than the health and well-being of our children. Nothing."

The bill increases federal reimbursement for free school lunches by 6 cents a meal at a time when many school officials can't afford to provide the meals. It also expands access to free lunch programs and allows 20 million additional after-school meals to be served annually in all 50 states.

Although the bill seems independent from the restaurant industry, it’s quite relevant for some companies that not only put forth major efforts to curb hunger, such as Yum! Brands’ partnership with the United Nations World Food Programme, but also promote healthier standards, such as Naked Pizza.

Representatives from Naked Pizza responded to the bill’s passage, touting its willingness to jump on board in the fight for a more nutritious lifestyle:

We support the Child Nutrition act. We also believe that any solution to the epidemic of obesity and chronic disease must be a holistic one.  Solutions must come from players throughout the food supply and medical community, and include policymakers, media, business and communities.  A successful effort will recognize the cultural factors that historically have overwhelmed the best efforts to educate people about diet and change behavior.

The simple fact is that despite more than 100 years of nutritional and medical advice, the obesity epidemic increases and the health of the country continues its free-fall.  Simultaneously, as the amount of processed food we eat increases and the diversity of our diet decreases, fast food has become the most successful and pervasive marketing and distribution infrastructure in the world.

As over-scheduled, dual income households became the norm for the middle-class, fast food answered the need for convenient, affordable and tasty meals.  As more people in developing countries move to the city, fast food is waiting.  When supermarkets abandon inner-city neighborhoods, fast-food obliges, happily filling the void. 

Where the people are.

Famously, when they asked the bank robber why he robbed banks he replied:  "because that's where the money is."  Why has Naked Pizza chosen to bring a nutritionally correct pizza based on evolutionary science to fast food and the $60 billion global carryout and delivery pizza industry?  That's where the people are. 

We're piercing the culture meeting people half way with an all natural pizza featuring a familiar chewy, crunchy crust of 10 grains, prebiotic fiber and probiotics - no preservatives, nothing artificial - that tastes like pizza!  And in doing so, we're demonstrating that fast food can be part of the solution for the global epidemic of obesity and chronic disease; that this powerful industry can help instead of harm and so it should.

We're eager to partner with educators, parents, committed nutritionists, policy makers, medical professionals, pundits, scientists, distributors, producers and growers to address the problem; and only with a realistic grasp of cultural and marketplace influences and a sense of urgency. We simply do not have the time for theoretical policy and philosophical debate.  It is time for acknowledging well-documented science regarding why our kids are getting sicker, and deploying technology-enabled, marketplace-aware action.

We sell our pizza for about the same price as the highly processed one most commonly bought by schools to feed their kids.  That's one way we hope to contribute. 

But we envision moving beyond silver bullets and counting calories (just some of the many failed efforts to curb obesity) taking the effort bigger, helping people to think before they bite, organizing the world's largest grassroots health movement on the backs of education, infrastructure, private-sector incentive and advocacy.  Fundamentally, it is about helping people to take responsibility for their health by reacquainting them with their biology and common sense about what we should eat: Whole foods that your great-grandmother would recognize; high in diversity and fiber; foods that can be part of an active lifestyle.  In our case, this means a minimally processed food that tastes like pizza.

We developed our concept out of a Katrina flooded building and launched our franchise company only fifteen months ago, leveraging the investment of billionaires and more than 5,000 franchise inquiries, with these non-negotible goals in mind.   

We're glad to see the appetite for the fight pick up, while exceedingly mindful that it's barely round 1. 

*Flickr photo courtesy of dullhunk.

 

 

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