LAS VEGAS — During the final day of Food Marketing Institute’s Health and Wellness Conference yesterday, Sam Kass, assistant White House chef, addressed attendees about what the administration would like to see supermarkets do to help families stay healthy and eliminate childhood obesity, which has become an epidemic in America.
Childhood obesity rates have tripled over the past three decades. Today nearly one in three children are overweight or obese. Kass noted that for the first time in the nation’s history, "Our youngest generation might live a shorter lifespan than their parents. That's unthinkable!"
Supermarkets can take a leadership position on eliminating food deserts by building more stores in poor urban and rural neighborhoods where people don’t have access to affordable healthy foods, he said.
“Our goal is to eliminate food deserts in seven years,” said Kass. The administration has a healthy food financing initiative with a proposed $400 million annual investment to achieve its goal. The investment would leverage millions more in private sector funding to bring grocery stores to underserved areas and help convenience stores offer more healthy choices, he said.
Kass said supermarkets have an opportunity to raise the bar in efforts to cultivate a generation of healthier kids by being “architects of [food] choice” through store layout and merchandising in prime space.
He urged food retailers to include healthy and nutritional food choices in end-cap and Center Store displays, on eye-level shelves and in product sampling. Front-end checkouts, Kass said, are locations for candy bars that attract kids. He asked retailers to consider family-friendly checkout lanes displaying healthy snacks instead of candy.
The Food and Drug Administration is committed to developing a front-of-pack label to help consumers make healthier food choices, he noted. No one is in a better position to take a leadership role on front-of-pack labels than the food industry, he said.
“A front-of-pack label may be the single most important tool a parent can have to help make the healthier choice the easier choice.”
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