Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr.

PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, Feb. 26, 2004
CONTACT: Doris Sanchez
Phone: (512) 463-0127

Lt. Gov. Dewhurst appoints Sen. Lucio, Sen. Deuell and Sen. Nelson
to the Joint Interim Study Committee on Nutrition and Health in Public Schools

AUSTIN, TX--Yesterday Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr. was appointed to the Joint Interim Study Committee on Nutrition and Health in Public Schools by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.

The 15-member committee was created by legislation (Senate Bill 474) authored by Sen. Lucio during the 78th legislative session to give the state a forum that addresses methods to combat obesity and improve nutrition habits among public school children. Also appointed to the committee were Senators Robert Deuell, M.D. (Greenville) and Jane Nelson (Flower Mound). Members from the House include Representatives Jaime Capelo (Corpus Christi), Jodie Laubenberg (Parker) and Vicki Truitt (Keller). Also serving on the committee are Texas Agriculture Commissioner Susan Combs, Texas Education Commissioner Shirley Neely, and Texas Health Commissioner Eduardo Sanchez, M.D.

"I commend Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst for making these appointments so that we as legislators can join forces with our three commissioners, medical experts, nutrition specialists, educators and parents to ensure that our children learn to make healthier food choices," Sen. Lucio noted. "Our goal is to encourage and teach children to maintain a proper weight to help them prevent the early onset of diseases like Type II Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, hypertension, asthma, orthopedic complications, sleep apnea, gall bladder disease and certain cancers which continue to increase among our youngest populations."

"Learning to take care of our physical health and well being is a fundamental component of education, and that is why I authored legislation in 1999 to return physical education to the school day in Texas. I look forward to this opportunity to re-examine the way we are teaching our young children to make good decisions about their health," said Sen. Nelson, who chairs the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services.

"As a family physician, I know that prevention works better than cures. We need to explore ways to prevent problems like diabetes and heart disease, and a good place to start is examining the nutrition our kids are getting." said Sen. Deuell. "I know that the state has seen some tight financial times lately, but I believe any money we invest in the health of our kids we will get back exponentially in the coming years. We are talking about the health of Texans who be alive 60 or 70 years from now.

"I look forward to working with Sen. Lucio and Sen. Nelson to find ways to study the nutritional content and quality of foods served to public school children and curb the growing problem of childhood obesity," added Sen. Deuell.

Sen. Lucio said that he is calling on Texans to participate in the Committee hearings and offer their input and express their concerns. "We want to hear of successful and innovative programs that children respond positively to regarding health and nutrition; we want to discuss with food and beverage vendors how we can stock healthy products in vending machines and in food lines; we want to hear from our school food service directors of methods that will entice our children to eat more fruits and vegetables and lower-fat meals; and we want to further the efforts and goals of the Texas Department of Agriculture's Nutrition Division."

Recently, the Governor appointed the following public members to the committee: Physician--William John Klish, from Houston; Nutrition Expert--Nancy M. DiMarco from Denton; School Food Service Director--Dora Rivas from San Benito; Parent--Melissa Ann Wilson, M.D., from Corpus Christi; and School Superintendent-- Adrian B. Johnson, Ed.D. from Texas City.

Sen. Lucio's vision includes evaluating the current School Health Advisory Committees (SHAC) and Wellness Programs in schools. Only 10 percent of public school districts, or 120 districts, have active SHACs and data is not available for the Wellness Programs.

"Every school should have a SHAC or Wellness Program that addresses nutrition, physical activity and other health components for our children, and that are designed to involve parents and school staff members," he said. "Existing programs need to be maintained or reactivated, and of course in areas where there are no programs, we need to encourage school districts to implement one of these programs."

The Senator also added, "I appreciate the leadership Governor Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Tom Craddick have shown towards the committee's efforts and for their commitment to improving the current and future health of our public school children."

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