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Healthy foods hard to find for kids nationwide

by Aimee Keenan-Greene

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say children need improved food access, regulations and policies to promote healthy eating and fight childhood obesity.

They have just released the 2011 Children's Food Environment State Indicator Report.

In Rhode Island, the news is not good.

Based on the Modified Retail Food Environment Index (mRFEI), scores ranging from 0 - no food retailers that typically sell healthy food,  to 100 - only food retailers that typically sell healthy food, Rhode Island scored a 4.

States with lower mRFEI scores have more fast food restaurants and convenience stores, that are less likely to sell less healthy foods, and fewer food retailers like supermarkets that sell healthy foods.

Nationally, the average mRFEI score was 10.

State-by-state scores ranged from highs of 16 in Montana and 15 in Maine to  a low of 4 in the District of Columbia.

Thirty-two states scored at or below the national average for the Modified Retail Food Environment Index.

The CDC says States, communities, child care facilities and schools all have roles to play in improving these numbers.

"Childhood obesity has tripled over the past 30 years," said CDC Director Thomas Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. "This report underscores the need to make healthier choices easier for kids and more accessible and affordable for parents."

The CDC says childhood obesity affects approximately 12.5 million children and teens nationwide.
Obese children are more likely to have risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and Type 2 diabetes, than are other children and adolescents.

In Rhode Island, health officials say one in five children start kindergarten being overweight. 

Less than one in five, 19 percent,  of  RI kids eat fruits and vegetables five or more times per day.

"To feed their children healthy food at home, parents must have ready access to stores that sell affordable, healthy food," said William Dietz, M.D., Ph.D., director of CDC's Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity. "Parents also want their children to continue eating well in school or child care facilities. This report highlights actions that states, communities, and individuals can take to improve children's food choices and influences."

Additional Resources: 
CDC funded state-based nutrition, physical activity, and obesity programs.
CDC funded  coordinated school health programs.
The 2011 Children's Food Environment State Indicator Report compiles data from a variety of sources, including Preventing Obesity in the Child Care Setting: Evaluating State Regulations and CDC's School Health Profiles.

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