Let's Move! to Fight Obesity
First Lady begins new campaign for healthier kids
Over the past three decades, childhood obesity rates in America have tripled, and today nearly one in three children in America is overweight or obese.
First Lady Michelle Obama quoted this disturbing statistic at the White House Tuesday as she launched Let's Move, a nationwide campaign to eliminate childhood obesity.
"This isn't just about inches and pounds or how our kids look," she told a sixth grade class and members of the media. "It's about how our kids feel, and how they feel about themselves. It's about the impact we're seeing on every aspect of their lives."
Mrs. Obama first showed interest in helping kids with health and nutrition a year ago when she planted a garden on the White House grounds. Students from Bancroft Elementary School in Washington, D.C., helped plant and harvest the garden. One of those students, sixth grader Tammy Nguyen, introduced the First Lady at the press conference and thanked her for teaching kids to make good food choices.
When the First Lady took the podium, she began a powerful and heartfelt assessment of the problem.
"This isn't like a disease where we're still waiting for the cure to be discovered," she said. "We know the cure for this. This isn't like putting a man on the moon or inventing the Internet. It doesn't take some stroke of genius or feat of technology. We have everything we need, right now, to help our kids lead healthy lives."
Earlier in the morning, President Barack Obama signed a memorandum creating the first ever Task Force on Childhood Obesity. And after the press conference, several members of the President's cabinet held a conference call with print reporters, including this Kid Reporter.
On the call, Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education, stressed that the timing of the First Lady's initiative was critical.
"If children aren't healthy, they can't learn," he said. "This is about (kids) being able to pursue their dreams."
Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture, said clearer nutritional labeling is needed to help families make better food choices. He also promised to work toward putting healthier food in schools, both in lunches and in vending machines.
More than 31 million American children participate in federal school meal programs, and many of these kids consume as much as half their daily calories while at school. Let's Move aims to update the Child Nutrition Act to increase the standards of those school meals, he said.
The ultimate goal of the program is to improve the health and well being of children within a generation, said Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Sebelius called the problem an epidemic.
But eating healthy isn't the only solution — exercise and getting outdoors are just as important as healthy food. At the press conference, the First Lady advocated increasing recess at schools and planting family gardens.
"Experts recommend that children get 60 minutes of active play each day," Mrs. Obama said. "If this sounds like a lot, consider this: kids today spend an average of seven and a half hours a day watching TV, and playing with cell phones, computers, and video games. And only a third of high school students get the recommended levels of physical activity. So let's move. And I mean that literally."
While Let's Move involves many government agencies, it must also involve parents because they are role models for their kids. Parents can teach their kids how to make smart decisions, Mrs. Obama stressed.
"No matter how much [kids] beg for pizza, fries, and candy, ultimately, they are not, and should not be, the ones calling the shots at dinnertime," Mrs. Obama said. "We [parents] are in charge. We make these decisions."
For information and tips on how to live a healthier lifestyle, check out the Let's Move website.
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