Two bills that LiveWell Colorado supported during the 2014 legislative session were signed into law today by Governor John Hickenlooper at the State Capitol. These bills promote healthy eating and active living, and support the Governor's initiative to make Colorado the healthiest state in the nation.
House Bill 14-1301 provides $700,000 to fund educational efforts in communities across the state through the Colorado Department of Transportation's (CDOT) Safe Routes to School program. This program aims to increase the number of children walking and biking to school, promote safety and reduce traffic congestion around schools. Safe routes for walking and biking can help to reduce the risk of obesity related diseases by providing an opportunity for students to be more active each day as well as help improve air quality.
HB14-1301 was sponsored by Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush (D-26, Routt/Eagle) and Sen. Andy Kerr (D-22, Jefferson). The American Heart Association, Bicycle Colorado, the Colorado Health Foundation and LiveWell Colorado served as lead supporters for the legislation, along with additional support from Kaiser Permanente, Children's Hospital Colorado, LiveWell community coalitions and numerous bicycle, environmental and children’s health advocacy groups.
Also signed into law today was House Bill 14-1156, which continues to build on the momentum of Colorado's already successful elimination of the co-pay for all students who qualify for reduced-price breakfast and for those students, preschool through grade two, who qualify for reduced-price lunch. The bill now expands the lunch co-pay elimination for students in grades three through five as well.
HB14-1156 was sponsored by Rep. Dominick Moreno (D-32, Adams) and Sen. Jessie Ulibarri (D-21, Adams), with leadership from the Colorado School Nutrition Association (CSNA).
Data shows that both of these bills can have an impact on the growing risk of childhood obesity. Currently, Colorado has one of the fastest growing childhood obesity rates in the nation. Furthermore, 1 in 5 children in Colorado do not have access to healthy, affordable food and only 15.6 percent of children walk or bike to school daily. In Pueblo City Schools, 13 percent more children chose to eat school lunches when the reduced lunch co-pay was eliminated. In addition, CDOT reports that 95 percent of Colorado schools receiving funding from Safe Routes to Schools see a positive increase—some as high as 31 percent—compared to pre-program walking and biking levels.
We believe that the signing of these bills is an important step in helping to address childhood obesity in Colorado, where 1 in 4 children is overweight or obese. We appreciate the legislators, the many organizations and the individuals who worked to pass these bills and look forward to building upon these successes as we all work together to make the healthy choice the easy choice for all Colorado kids.