With the Success of the Feed to Achieve Act last year, Senate Majority Leader John Unger is now looking to take on childhood obesity with new legislation. He introduced the Move to Improve Act into the Senate Thursday.
“Move to Improve goes into our middle schools and our elementary schools and really tries to instill in our students the importance of good nutrition and physical activity,” Unger said.
Last year’s bill focused on giving children more access to nutritious foods through public private partnerships and interagency cooperation. This year’s bill requires an additional 30 minutes of physical activity in a school day.
Unger said that doesn’t mean just in gym class, but he’s asking teachers to find creative ways to integrate movement into Math or Science as well.
“Because research shows that as the body is moving, so is the mind and children learn better if they’re moving versus sitting still,” he said.
The physical well-being of kids is the next focus of his Select Committee on Children and Poverty. In their meeting Friday, stakeholders shared their thoughts on the implementation of the bill should it pass.
West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee said this isn't a new concept for teachers. As a high school geometry teacher, he was finding ways to incorporate movement into his lessons, all without a mandate.
American Federation of Teachers West Virginia Chapter President Christine Campbell agreed, more movement in the classroom means more focus from students, but she wanted to make sure teachers were given the opportunity to be creative when incorporating the new requirement.
“I think having opportunities to spread that out over the course of the day is going to give teachers the flexibility to figure that out,” she said.
“I think they take on things like this because they understand it, they know it works and they’re willing to do it, but they need the support to say, yes we’re going to let you figure this out and give you the time and resources that really make sense and increase that physical activity.”
Campbell told committee members she believes Unger’s bill does give teachers that flexibility.
By pairing the accomplishments of Feed to Achieve with new legislation focused on physical activity, Unger said he thinks they can improve the overall health of the state’s children.
“Hopefully this will address the childhood obesity issue in West Virginia and ultimately address the health problems that many West Virginians face,” he said, “be it diabetes, overweight, hypertension, heart disease that tie back to when they were a child and they didn’t get much physical activity and nutrition. So, we’re hoping to offset that.”
Senate Health Committee Chairman Senator Ron Stollings is hoping to offset that too. He said creating a healthier generation could ultimately decrease the amount the state will pay for Medicaid in the future.
“There are a lot of findings in the first part of the bill and it just talks about how much obesity costs us in real dollars,” Stollings said, “and of course that translates into Medicaid dollars as well.”