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"Have a Heart for Kids Day" at WA Legislature

PHOTO: "Have a Heart for Kids Day" always draws a large and lively crowd at the Washington Legislature. Courtesy of Schools Out Washington
PHOTO: "Have a Heart for Kids Day" always draws a large and lively crowd at the Washington Legislature. Courtesy of Schools Out Washington
January 30, 2013

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Today's "Have a Heart for Kids Day" march to the state Capitol by children's advocates has a side benefit of working off some calories. One priority they'll be focusing on in talks with lawmakers is improving children's health.

The Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition says one in four Washington youngsters is overweight. Vic Colman, who heads the coalition, says they're advocating for better nutrition standards in state food purchasing and more physical activity and healthier meals for kids of all ages in child care.

"What we've learned is that we can't put the burden of the problem on the kids," Colman says. "It's really us as the adults who set the table, literally and figuratively, around 'Are there healthy choices?' and 'Can we make physical activity a daily habit?', et cetera."

Colman says the state has a role in everything from what's served in state-run cafeterias to rest-stop vending machines, so it might as well offer healthy options.

The coalition is also supporting a bill to add health as a goal of the state transportation system. Colman says it may seem like a small change, but how we get around affects pollution levels, safe walking and biking options, and more.

"We think health should be another lens that our transportation system needs to pay attention to, when they develop transportation projects," he says. "So, it adds 'human health' to their policy goals, directly in their enabling legislation."

Even giving cities the authority to lower speed limits on side streets - another bill the coalition is supporting - can help make them safer and encourage exercise, Colman says. Obesity levels appear to be leveling off among children, Colman says, and he thinks all the attention to health-related laws and policies could be starting to have an effect.

"Have a Heart for Kids Day" participants will work on their messages to lawmakers beginning at 9:30 a.m. at United Churches of Olympia, 110 11th Ave. S.E., then march to the Capitol beginning at 12:15 p.m. for the afternoon meetings. The group's legislative priorities are on its website, copcwa.org.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA