Chris Hansen, ACS CAN President

ACS CAN President Lisa Lacasse shares her views on the impact of advocacy on the cancer fight.


What's on the Menu: Policies that Foster Healthy Living

March 22, 2016

Cancer is a ubiquitous foe, and it can be cruelly indiscriminate. However, there are things a person can do to reduce his or her risk of developing cancer and focusing on healthy eating and active living are among the best. Since March is National Nutrition Month, I want to take this opportunity to share with you some of the important policies ACS CAN supports that help make it easier for children and adults to eat a healthy diet and keep their weight in check.

School Nutrition
Overweight and obese children and teens are significantly more likely to be overweight or obese as adults, increasing their future cancer risk. But by cultivating healthy eating habits and physical activity from a young age, we can decrease the number of Americans who are overweight or obese. That's why ACS CAN supports the continued implementation of science-based nutrition standards for school meals and snacks, and opposes any efforts to weaken them or roll them back.

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 made several changes to improve children's access to nutritious foods and nutrition education, including tasking the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) with updating the nutrition standards for the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program. This legislation also led the USDA to set science-based national nutrition standards for drinks and snacks sold in schools outside of the meal programs during the school day, including through a la carte, vending machines and school stores. In 97 percent of school districts, students are now eating meals with more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and less sodium, in age-appropriate portion sizes.

ACS CAN is encouraged to see the Senate's Improving Access and Increasing Integrity in Child Nutrition Bill includes many positive provisions that preserve and build upon the progress made under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, including largely maintaining the existing nutrition standards; increasing funding for farm to school programs and school food equipment and infrastructure; and broadening opportunities for nutrition education. We're also urging the USDA to release a strong final rule on school wellness policies, and encourage school districts to update their policies accordingly.

Menu Labeling
ACS CAN is also working to make sure Americans have access to information that can help them make healthy choices. People are eating more frequently away from home and, as a result, are consuming more calories, which can lead to weight gain and increase cancer risk. These are among the reasons why ACS CAN supports requiring restaurants and other food retailers to post calorie information on menus and menu boards and make additional nutrition information available.

It is important for people to have information about the nutrition content of foods and beverages, wherever they may shop or eat, to help them make healthier choices. It's also what people want. A 2009 survey found that 70 percent of consumers wanted calorie information on restaurant menus. National menu labeling legislation was passed as part of the Affordable Care Act, and the FDA has issued regulations to implement the requirements.

Unfortunately, certain businesses and interest groups, including pizza chains, grocery stores, and convenience stores, are working hard to reverse progress and make nutrition information more difficult to understand or access. The Obama administration opposes these efforts.  ACS CAN urges swift, strong implementation of menu labeling. We also encourage the FDA to finalize its guidance for industry on the implementation of the existing requirements so customers will finally have access to calorie information for foods in chain restaurants, convenience stores, stadiums and movie theaters.

We know what we have to do to put our children on the path toward a healthy lifestyle and help busy Americans make smart food and beverage choices when eating out. Historic progress has been made to improve the nutritional quality of the meals and snacks over 30 million children eat at school each day. We're so close to giving people access to nutrition information about ready-to-eat foods in places like chain restaurants, convenience stores, and supermarkets. We encourage Congress, the USDA and the FDA to continue moving forward, building on this progress, and refuse to back-pedal on our nation's commitment to a healthier future.