Updates to the Nutrition Facts Label

On May 20th, 2016, the Food and Drug Administration finalized the new Nutrition Facts label, which will be required for use on most packaged foods by July 26th, 2018. Overall, public health and nutrition professionals are pleased with the updates as the new labels should make it easier for consumers to make healthy, informed decisions about what they eat and will hopefully push food companies to create healthier products.

from fda.gov

from fda.gov

Healthy & Active Before 5 is happy to see these updates, and we hope that with the new labels parents of young children can determine at a glance whether a packaged food product is healthy for their child. Here are the four changes that we think will most benefit families with young children:

  • Design and type-size changes —the information for “calories” and “serving size,” will be more prominent. Caloric value is one of the most important pieces of information on the label, so it only makes sense to make that text large and noticeable. People often don’t realize when a package contains more than one serving, and thus they end up consuming two or three times more calories than they realize. The larger, bolded “serving size” line should prevent this, as will the next two items in this list:
  • Updated serving sizes—serving sizes are now required to more closely reflect the amounts of food that people are actually eating.  For example, both 12 oz. and 20 oz. bottles of soda must be labeled as one serving since most people typically consume an entire bottle, no matter its size, in one sitting.
  • “Per serving” and “per package” information (not pictured above) —certain multi-serving food products that could be consumed in one sitting will be required to provide calorie and nutrition information for both an individual serving and the entire package. For example, a 3-ounce bag of chips might contain two servings, but many people will eat the entire package in one sitting.  With the new dual-column labels, people will be able to easily understand how many calories and nutrients they are getting if they eat the entire package at one time.
  • Addition of added sugars —all food labels must declare the number of grams and a percent daily value (%DV) for added sugars. This is a fantastic change, as it is difficult to meet daily nutrient needs without consuming too many calories if one consumes a lot of added sugars. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans advises limiting consumption of added sugars to less than 10% of total calories per day. This recommendation is difficult to follow using current food labels, as added sugars were not distinguished from naturally occurring sugars. With this update, parents can tell right away that one bottle of soda or juice is unhealthy for their child. What would be even better is if food companies stopped producing foods that exceed that daily recommended amount of added sugar altogether!

These new labels are a great step in a healthy direction, and will hopefully make choosing what food to eat a simpler, clearer process. Even better than increased consumer awareness will be the pressure placed on the food industry to reformulate their products to contain fewer added sugars and be healthier overall. This would improve the food environment for everyone, children included, and place less of the responsibility on consumers to navigate the preponderance of unhealthy products that we currently face.

For a full run-down of the updated label requirements, check out the FDA’s page on Changes to the Nutrition Label. 

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Meet Our Partners – Viola Lujan

We want you to get to know the people who make Healthy & Active Before 5 the powerful collaboration that it is. In this series, we’ll be speaking with members of our Executive Committee and other partners who bring unique perspectives on early childhood health to our table. Today we’re speaking with Viola Lujan, Director of Business and Community Relations at La Clínica de La Raza, and Executive Vice Chair of Healthy & Active Before 5’s Executive Committee.

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What does your organization do and what is your role?

La Clínica de La Raza provides primary care services to primarily low-income communities. Our mission is to improve the quality of life of the diverse communities we serve by providing high quality, accessible health care for all. My role is Business & Community Relations Director, so I coordinate the work in our three counties: Alameda, Contra Costa and Solano, and I collaborate with other service agencies on a variety of projects and systems. I also oversee the Community Health Department of La Clínica, where we focus on upstream education leadership development programs for several adult communities. In addition, the Community Health Department engages and educates the community on Covered California options, as we are dedicated to making sure that people who are uninsured or under-insured receive quality health care.

How did you get into your current field?

I started at La Clínica in the early seventies, after just coming out of college and the accompanying student movement. We had been challenging the systems that were inequitable and closed to minorities, and trying to get federal funds dedicated to social programs. For me this has been a lifetime issue. My husband and I moved up here from Southern California so he could finish law school – we loved the Bay Area and have been here ever since. At the time, La Clínica had just obtained some funds to implement a mental health program, and that was how I got connected to the program. I’ve been involved in changing systems and eliminating health care inequity for a long time, and I still believe that health care should be a right, not a privilege.

What is one thing you would like to see changed or improved for children in Contra Costa County?

It’s a biggie: The elimination of the systematic inequities that still exist. When I got involved in this movement I had this dream that systems would change; that injustices would be addressed. But it is really hard to make those changes. We’ve made steps in the right direction, but the bottom line is that we still have systems that promote inequities and racial prejudices. We still struggle to eliminate those inequities in health coverage, health care, education, the justice system, in everything. So I would like to see truly equal opportunities for everyone. I think about my grandson, he’s three years old. I don’t want him to deal with those issues as he grows up.

What do you like about being a part of Healthy & Active Before 5?

Interacting with people who have similar visions, goals, and passions for this line of work. At the end of the day, all of our discussion is about what we can do to leave the world a better place for kids. It’s great to be able to work with people like this, people whose values are aligned. The knowledge that the staff and Executive Committee of HAB45 have is amazing, and I’ve already learned a lot.

Anything else you’d like to say?

HAB45 staff is amazing, and we’ve got a great leader. The HAB45 strategic plan is a really well thought-out plan, and it’s being executed by a knowledgeable staff. Being a part of HAB45 been very rewarding, and I hope I make a significant contribution!

 

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What We’re Reading – 5/11/16

Photo Credit: flickr/Eduardo Merille

Photo Credit: flickr/Eduardo Merille

Oakland City Council Put Soda Tax on November Ballot

Oakland’s City Council voted unanimously to place a soda tax on the November ballot. If approved, Oakland would become the second city in the nation, after Berkeley, where a fee is charged on sugar-sweetened beverages.

In a statement, Mary Pittman, president of the Oakland-based Public Health Institute, said “It is time that big beverage companies dip into their millions of dollars of profits and help pay for the damage their products cause.”

Sugary beverages are a unique driver of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and tooth decay. HAB45 supports policies that reduce availability, accessibility, and consumption of sugary drinks, particularly among children ages 0-5.

Go Oakland!

Changes to the USDA’s Child and Adult Care Food Program Can Improve Children’s Health

The federal Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) provides funding for meals and snacks in a variety of child care, after-school, and adult day care institutions that contribute to the health and wellness of young children, older adults, and chronically impaired disabled people. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has released several updates to the program that are likely to increase whole grain intake and vegetable consumption, as well as lower consumption of grain-based desserts , according to a literature review from the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods project, a collaboration between the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Go Outside and Play: Tips to Get Kids Moving

Live Science asked childhood health experts to suggest ways that parents can help kids, from toddlers to teenagers, to get outdoors and be fit. Melinda Sothern, a professor of health promotion at the Louisiana State University School of Public Health had some particularly poignant information on getting toddlers to be physically active: “In the absence of screen time, children in this age group have an innate natural tendency to move.” Getting a toddler to move around is easy – all you have to do is not turn on the screen!

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De Anza Park has a New Play Structure!

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This beautiful new playground is the result of hard work and dedication by the East County Regional Group (ECRG), the First 5 Contra Costa Children & Families Commission, and Healthy & Active Before 5. In 2012 these advocates assessed 22 Pittsburg parks to determine their suitability for young children to play and engage in physical activity. At the time, De Anza Park was an empty field, as the previous play structure had been vandalized and removed in 2010. The park partners recommended to Pittsburg City Council that De Anza Park be prioritized for immediate improvements in amenities, maintenance, and safety; and encouraged the creation of a community safety coalition. Last year, the Council responded with a $50,000 allocation for these improvements.

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The fruits of this labor were evident on April 23rd 2016 when the City of Pittsburg revealed a newly installed playground at De Anza, commemorated by a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Mayor Ben Johnson attended the ceremony, where he thanked the ECRG for their advocacy and dedication, and encouraged the community to keep working with city staff to ensure safe play spaces in Pittsburg.

ECRG members distributed healthy snacks, volunteers painted faces, and children played field games and climbed onto the new structure for the very first time.

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To ensure that community members feel safe bringing their young children to the park, parents and nearby residents have partnered with the Pittsburg Police Department to start a Neighborhood Watch program.

Physical activity and outdoor play are important for children’s health and development, and it is our goal to ensure that children in Contra Costa County have access to safe, usable parks and playgrounds. To find the best parks and playgrounds near you, check out our bilingual Let’s Go the the Park maps for Pittsburg, Antioch, Bay Point, and the Richmond Iron Triangle.  For more information on the importance of play for young children, visit out our Resources page.

Congratulations to everyone who worked so hard to make De Anza Park into a bright new place for children to play!

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