Last week, Congress passed a last-minute spending bill to keep the government's lights on for the next three months, but they let the Child Nutrition Act expire. While the emergency funding bill covers school lunch, school breakfast and other critical nutrition programs for kids, our nation's students need more than a stopgap approach. Because no matter how you look at it the numbers add up, the science is clear, and history tells us: an investment in our kids' health is a wise and necessary one.
Let's start with the math: One in three of our nation's kids is overweight or obese, and as a country we spend $190 billion a year in medical costs to fight this epidemic. But these costs aren't just incurred by health insurance companies; they're a major burden on taxpayers. The biggest single driver of our national debt is health care spending through Medicare and Medicaid. Research has shown that spending would be much lower for these programs – 8.5 percent and 11.8 percent respectively or $103 billion in 2014 alone – were it not for obesity. This cost will only increase as our nation's "obesity generation" grows up. In 2030, direct medical expenses attributed to diet-related disease will hit an annual cost of $66 billion per year, and the overall loss in economic productivity could be as much as $580 billion annually.