Health & Nutrition
In the area of Health and Nutrition, CHILDREN AT RISK advocates for policies that improve a child’s access to nutritious food. Child poverty statistics in Texas contribute to alarming numbers of children who qualify for free and reduced lunch in public schools and who rely on the availability of school breakfast, after-school, and summer meal programs to meet their nutritional needs. In addition, convenient retail access to healthy, affordable food remains a challenge for many families. Texas has fewer grocery stores per capita than other states. Twenty percent of Texans overall – across urban, rural and border areas – live in areas with low access to nourishing food. Communities without a local grocery store or other healthy food retail options suffer from disproportionately high rates of obesity, diabetes and other diet-related health problems. Leading public health experts agree that the availability of nutritious and affordable food is a key factor in the development of a healthy community.
Currently our work focuses on two initiatives, Food in Schools and Healthy Food Access. Both aim to improve the health of Texas children while decreasing the prevalence of childhood obesity.
Food in Schools
Through our statewide Food In Schools Initiative – CHILDREN AT RISK successfully advocated during the 83rd State Legislative session for Universal School Breakfast. School breakfast dramatically improves access to healthy food for children, while increasing their attentiveness and classroom performance. Since passage of this bill we have implemented an extensive outreach programming to educate school districts across the state on strategies to implement universal school breakfast programs and to increase participation of schools and children in this vitally important program. We also educate and do outreach work on summer meal programs for school children, and more recently on afterschool meal programs (CACFP) as more funding has become available to assure that school age children receive the daily nutrition required throughout the day for healthy productive lives.
Healthy Food Access
CHILDREN AT RISK has embarked on local and state-wide initiatives to address the critical need for improved healthy food access:
- In Houston, CHILDREN AT RISK successfully advocated for a Healthy Food Financing Initiative that supports the development of new supermarkets in underserved areas by providing grants, loans and tax credits. The first new Pyburn’s Farm Fresh Foods, built from the ground up and developed under this program, was opened in Spring 2015.
- In Dallas, CHILDREN AT RISK, in collaboration with community partners, is advancing a Healthy Food Retail Initiative to partner with existing corner and convenience store owners to introduce and promote a healthier, more nutritious range of products. Click here to learn more about the program and to learn how you can get involved!
- Statewide, CHILDREN AT RISK will champion new legislation to develop a Healthy Food Financing Fund for Texas to support the development, expansion and renovation of grocery retail options that offer a full selection of healthy foods.
Learn more about our Center for Child Health Research & Policy.
For more information on the state of food insecurity in Texas, explore our Food Insecurity Resources.
See how Texas school districts ensure students start the day with a full belly through our Universal School Breakfast and At-Risk Afterschool Meal Case Studies.
See how Texas hospitals ensure patients and their families are well-fed with nutritious meals through our Medical Model One Pager and Case Studies.
- Establish a workgroup to provide school districts with best practices on recess. Require school districts to develop a locally determined school recess policy.