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Fighting obesity with good nutrition

As The Sun recently noted, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a report explaining that obesity rates in the nation have declined ("Tide may be turning on U.S. childhood obesity — CDC," Aug. 6). Hooray! But if you look beneath that shiny veneer here in Maryland, you'll find that the glass is really half full. It's true that our state's obesity rate in low-income preschoolers, after decades of rising, began to level off from 2003 through 2008 and is now showing small declines. Maryland is one of just 18 states with a decline in the rate of preschool obesity.

However, too many of Maryland's preschoolers are still obese. The obesity rate for Maryland's low-income preschoolers is still considerably above the national average of 12 percent (one in eight). Obese children are more likely to become obese adults and suffer lifelong physical and mental health problems.

Maryland state and local officials can play a big part in reducing obesity among preschoolers and other vulnerable populations by promoting participation in federal nutrition programs such as Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), the Child and Adult Care Feeding Program, SNAP (formerly known as food stamps and called the Food Supplement Program in Maryland), and the National School Lunch and Breakfast programs. The CDC specifically points out that these federal programs are addressing the issue by "helping low-income families to get affordable, nutritious foods through programs such WIC and the Child and Adult Care Feeding Program." In addition, the Maryland State Department of Education has a comprehensive initiative to leverage the power of CACFP to strengthen the nutrition and wellness in child care centers and homes.

We have to do more to make sure that there is a place at the table for all of these kids — and that they have access to healthy foods.

Michael J. Wilson, Silver Spring

The writer is director of Maryland Hunger Solutions.

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