To: FMI Government Relations Committee
Re: White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity Report
Date: May 11, 2010
On May 11, 2010, the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity released their
report, ―Solving the Problem of Childhood Obesity Within a Generation‖. The report thwas requested in a February 9 Memorandum issued by the President asking this interagency task force to review research, consult experts as well as the public and
produce a set of recommendations that take together ―will put our country on track to solving the problem of childhood obesity‖.
These recommendations are likely the future foundation of the First Lady’s ―Let’s Move‖
initiative and are built around the previously established ―pillars‖ of the campaign:
1. Empowering parents and caregivers;
2. Providing health food in schools;
3. Improving access to healthy, affordable foods; and
4. Increasing physical activity.
In addition, a section focusing on ―Early childhood‖ was added. Each section establishes
―recommendations‖ and ―benchmarks of success‖
Focus of the recommendations is ―not simply for Federal action, but also for how the
private sector, state and local leaders, and parents themselves can help improve the health
of our children‖.
Impact on Food Retailers:
The food retail industry was specifically mentioned in two sections of the report –
Empowering Parents and Caregivers and Access to Healthy Affordable Food. While our
industry can have an impact on issues raised throughout the entire report below highlights
the specific areas in which retail was referenced.
Empowering Parents and Caregivers (page 23-36):
The Task Force reported that ―fundamentally, parents and caregivers are responsible for
their children’s health and development‖, but ―changes in the food and social
environment over the past 20 years have made parents’ and caregivers’ roles in
promoting health more challenging‖. Challenges include ―confusing claims or labels on
food packages‖ and ―marketing campaigns‖.
The report highlights the voluntary initiatives by industry to alter the way food is
marketed to children and its effectiveness. Particular focus was on the program
established by the Council of Better Business Bureaus – Children’s Food and Beverage
Advertising Initiative (CFBAI). The Task Force found a lack of uniformity in many of
the efforts related to type of marketing, marketing platforms in which the agreements
reach, use of nutritional information and message being conveyed to children.
The Task Force also believes that ―voluntary reform will only occur if companies are
presented with sufficient reasons to comply – the prospect of regulation or legislation has
often served as a catalyst for driving meaningful reform‖.
Specific Recommendations Focused on Retailers:
? Recommendation 2.5: The food and beverage industry should extend its self-
regulatory program to cover all forms of marketing to children, and food
retailers should avoid in-store marketing that promotes unhealthy products to
children. Currently, the CFBAI guidelines limit only certain types of child-
directed advertising—including television, print, radio, and Internet—but do not
apply to in-store advertising, product packaging, and many other forms of
marketing. For truly meaningful and effective self-regulation, all forms of child-
directed marketing should be covered. Retailers have an important role to play in
this effort as well, since they control what products are placed at children’s eye
level and can impact in-store advertising, including at the point-of-sale (page 32).
Access to Health, Affordable Food (pages 49-64)
The Task Force reported that health options can be hard to find in too many communities
and that economic incentives oftentimes favor unhealthy eating. Focus in this section is
based on what the Task Force finds as four key elements for ―ensuring access to healthy, affordable food‖:
1. Convenient physical access to grocery stores and other retailers that sell a variety
of healthy foods;
2. Prices that make healthy choices affordable and attractive;
3. A range of healthy products available in the marketplace (product reformulation);
4. Adequate resources for consumers to make healthful choices, including access to
nutrition assistance programs to meet the special needs of low-income Americans.
Positively the Task Force recognized that there is not a ―one-size-fits-all‖ approach to the
problem of food deserts and in some cases a grocery store or supermarket in a community
may not be ―economically feasible‖ but there could be other unique solutions to fix the
The benchmark for success in this section is to ―eliminate food deserts in America in 7
Specific Recommendations Focused on Retailers:
? Recommendation 4.1: Launch a multi-year, multi-agency Healthy Food
Financing Initiative to leverage private funds to increase the availability of
affordable, healthy foods in underserved urban and rural communities across
the country (page 53).
? Recommendation 4.2: Local governments should be encouraged to create
incentives to attract supermarkets and grocery stores to underserved
neighborhoods and improve transportation routes to healthy food retailers
? Recommendation 4.3: Food distributors should be encouraged to explore ways
to use their existing distribution chains and systems to bring fresh and healthy
foods into underserved communities (page 54).
The Task Force reports that ―prices have a large effect on consumer choices‖. Focus is
on agriculture policy as a whole on food prices, impact on subsidies programs at the retail
level, and the impact of tax policy on purchasing behavior.
? Recommendation 4.7: Provide economic incentives to increase production of
healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, as well as create
greater access to local and healthy food for consumers (page 59).
? Recommendation 4.8: Demonstrate and evaluate the effect of targeted subsidies
on purchases of healthy food through nutrition assistance programs (page 59).
? Recommendation 4.9: Analyze the effect of state and local sales taxes on less
healthy, energy-dense foods (page 59).
Efforts were made in the report and the introductory press conference to convey the fact
that a federal ―sugar tax‖ has not been proposed and the focus is on the tax being
implemented at the state or local level.
Hunger and Obesity
The Task Force examined the ―possible correlation between food insecurity and obesity‖
and focused on the participation rates for the current Federal nutrition assistance
programs including SNAP and WIC. More than one-third of those eligible for SNAP do
not participate and 40% for WIC. Focus may present food retail industry and
opportunity to begin/expand on programs that help assist with the enrollment of eligible
? Recommendation 4.11: Increase participation rates in USDA nutrition assistance
programs through creative outreach and improved customer service, state adoption of
improved policy options and technology systems, and effective practices to ensure ready
access to nutrition assistance program benefits, especially for children. Improved
policies and effective practices include streamlined and more timely application process,
greater use of broad-based categorical eligibility and direct certification, and reductions
of barriers to participation such as finger imaging. Access to feeding programs for
children throughout the year can also be expanded by engaging state, local, Tribal,
community leaders, and partnerships with allied organizations, advocacy groups, and
communities (page 62).
The report concludes with the call ―to turn these ideas into action‖ but does not provide
specific timelines beyond the broad goals established in the Let’s Move campaign.
Action will require a combination of new legislation, Congressional appropriations, use
of existing Federal programs and voluntary commitments by industry and other