Up until at least 2014, U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis, complained too many of Tennessee’s kids were malnourished and starving and only government could step in to fix the problem.
And, yes, Cohen got grant money for that.
Now we have the reverse.
This year, according to Cohen’s office, too many Volunteer State children are pudgy and, as you may have surmised, taxpayers have to get involved to amend that too.
And, yes, Cohen wants grant money.
Did the government programs meant to purge kids’ hunger work a little too well, making all the kids flabby?
Do standardized test scores have something to do with this?
Why the sudden U-turn?
The Tennessee Star got no answers Thursday, as no one from Cohen’s office returned a request for comment.
But Cohen explained some of his reasoning in a new press release.
“We have a real problem with childhood obesity in this country and I am disheartened to note that Tennessee has the highest rate of any state at 38 percent,” Cohen announced.
The national childhood obesity rate, however, is 31 percent, Cohen said.
Cohen’s new Reducing Obesity in Youth Act will create grant programs to encourage kids to exercise and eat healthy.
In introducing the bill, Cohen cited health care and national security concerns — the military, for instance, will not take 70 percent of people aged 17 – 24 for weight reasons.
In his press release, Cohen did not say how much this would all cost.
Four years ago, in another press release, Cohen complained too many children, especially in Memphis, suffered from hunger.
He took to the floor of the House and introduced an amendment to add $3 million to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service program.
That program gives free food to kids in the summer — at a time when they can’t get free and reduced lunches at school.
“For many young people in Memphis and around the nation, one of their most exciting days is the last day of school before it lets out for the summer,” Cohen said.
“But for others—like the less fortunate children in our country—school letting out has a more negative consequence: hunger. More than 16 million children in America, or one in 5 of all children in the wealthiest nation in the world, are at risk of going hungry. That isn’t right.”
Cohen went on to say that “the wealthiest nations in the world should not send its children to bed hungry.”
According to the USDA’s website, without these programs children will inevitably score lower on achievement tests.
A Tennessee Watchdog investigation in 2015, however, showed programs such as these had no effect on the test scores of children in Chattanooga and Nashville.
Some test scores even worsened.
At the time, Hamilton County School Board member Rhonda Thurman admitted results of these programs failed to live up to board members’ expectations.
“I was indeed told that if the kids get better nutritional value then the scores will be better. But if we have certain schools where 95 to 98 percent of the kids are on free and reduced lunches then why are those kids not Rhodes scholars?” Thurman asked.
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