Many of us are keenly aware of the staggering rates of childhood obesity rates in Connecticut. Up to 25 percent of Connecticut kids are considered overweight or obese.
One of the leading causes of childhood obesity is the consumption of sugar- containing beverages. Obesity negatively impacts a child’s long-term health and academic performance in the classroom (Castelli, Hillman, Buck & Erwin, JSEP, 2007). Children who are obese are more susceptible to depression and low self-esteem, and are more likely to be victims of bullying.
Empty calories from sugar-sweetened beverages contribute to approximately 22 percent of a child’s total daily caloric intake (Reedy and Smith, 2010). On average, children between the ages of 2 and 18 consume 171 empty calories per day from sugar-sweetened beverages such as soda and fruit juices combined (NHANES, 2005-06). Those 171 calories from sweetened beverages is the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of sugar daily.
A 2013 study conducted by Harvard researchers linked 25,000 U.S. deaths to consumption of sugary drinks. This includes sugar-sweetened beverages, loaded with calories that contain no nutritional value. ABC News chief health and medical editor Dr. Richard Besser stated, “Study after study links intake of sugary drinks to poor health effects.”
Senate Bill 48, An Act Concerning Nutrition Standards for Child Care Settings, would prohibit child day care centers, group day care homes, and family day care homes from providing:
The bill would also prohibit facilities from providing milk with more than 1 percent fat for a child over two years of age or if it was deemed medically necessary by the child’s medical provider. Finally, childcare settings must make water available and easily accessible to children throughout the day.
The Connecticut Alliance of YMCAs, with its 23 corporate Ys, provides childcare programs to almost 14,000 of Connecticut’s children. We have voluntarily adopted the YMCAs Health Eating and Physical Activity Standards for Early Childhood and Afterschool Programs. The standards include a beverage segment that is identical to the proposed bill. By adopting these nutrition and exercise standards it shows the YMCA’s commitment to being one of the healthiest and largest providers of early childhood education and afterschool programming in Connecticut, and that is why we are supportive of Senate Bill 48.
Across the state, YMCAs are setting the example of healthy environments for children. Some children spend up to 12 hours a day in outside care. Through this legislation, we will ensure that all CT preschool and before/after school facilities follow consistent, statewide nutrition health standards for beverages. We urge parents and legislators to support Senate Bill 48 to improve the nutritional quality of their children’s daycare.
John L. Cattelan is Executive Director of the Connecticut Alliance of YMCAs.