News / USA

New Term Lets First Lady Press Obesity Fight

Michelle Obama Returns to Fight Against Childhood Obesityi
X
January 19, 2013 1:06 AM
As U.S. President Barack Obama is inaugurated for a second term, his wife Michelle will be at his side. But the First Lady has been a significant force in her own right, tackling a major public health threat -- obesity. It is a growing problem globally, raising rates of heart disease, cancer and diabetes; nowhere more so than in the United States. Health advocates say Mrs. Obama’s high-profile campaign against childhood obesity has helped bring much-needed attention to the issue. VOA's Steve Baragona reports.

Michelle Obama Returns to Fight Against Childhood Obesity

A second term for President Barack Obama allows Michelle Obama to continue her high-profile campaign against childhood obesity.

It's a fight Mrs. Obama took up at the start of her husband's first term and she's expected to use her platform as first lady to continue it into his second.   

Planting seeds for better health

It started with the garden. Shortly after moving in four years ago, Michelle Obama dug up a patch of the White House lawn to plant organic vegetables and herbs, with the help of local school kids.

It was a potent symbol for the urgent issue Obama would pursue.

“Too many kids are consuming high-calorie foods with low nutritional value, and they’re not getting enough exercise," she said. "Plain and simple. They’re not eating right, and they’re not moving their bodies at all.”

One out of every three children in the U.S. is overweight or obese, raising healthcare costs and even threatening the nation's military readiness.

First lady Michelle Obama carries mustard plants for planting as she is joined by school children from across the country for the fourth annual White House Kitchen Garden spring planting, Monday, March 26,2012, at the White House.First lady Michelle Obama carries mustard plants for planting as she is joined by school children from across the country for the fourth annual White House Kitchen Garden spring planting, Monday, March 26,2012, at the White House.
x
First lady Michelle Obama carries mustard plants for planting as she is joined by school children from across the country for the fourth annual White House Kitchen Garden spring planting, Monday, March 26,2012, at the White House.
First lady Michelle Obama carries mustard plants for planting as she is joined by school children from across the country for the fourth annual White House Kitchen Garden spring planting, Monday, March 26,2012, at the White House.
Let's Move

So, in February of 2010, the first lady launched a government-wide initiative called “Let’s Move.” The goal: to end childhood obesity in a generation.

“This is our obligation," Obama said. "Not just as parents who love our kids, but citizens who love this country.”

Overhauling the meals served in U.S. public schools has been a major focus for the first lady, but that's also drawn strong opposition from conservative lawmakers and segments of the food industry.

She got a rock-star welcome at Parklawn Elementary just outside Washington last January, when she visited to announce new standards for school cafeteria food.

“When we send our kids to school, we have a right to expect that they won’t be eating the kind of fatty, salty, sugary foods that we’re trying to keep from them when they’re at home,” she said at the time.

Major shift

To get government funding, schools must serve meals that are healthier than the old standards required, says health advocate Margo Wootan with the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

“Double the amount of fruits and vegetables… limit the amount of salt, make the grains whole grain, the milk low fat," Wootan says. "This is a major shift.”

But making that shift has not been easy. Many conservatives viewed the changes through the same lens as they saw the new U.S. health care law: as big government making decisions that should be left to individuals.

And limits on French fries and pizza on school menus drew fire from potato growers and pizza makers.

Challenges

With the other rules now in effect in cafeteria kitchens nationwide, food service directors are facing another hurdle: healthier food is more expensive.

“The costs have gone up. But reimbursement has not gone up accordingly,” Penny McConnell, food service chief at Parklawn and the other Fairfax County schools.

She says the extra six cents per meal she receives from the federal government does not cover the cost of the extra fruits and vegetables she has to buy.

Notoriously fussy kids who don’t always like healthier food present another challenge.

“Having it there and available is half the battle," says Cornell University nutrition expert David Just. "But we’ve got to get them to actually want to eat it, so we’re not just putting food on the tray and throwing that good food away.”

Continuing the fight

More challenges lie ahead for Michelle Obama’s anti-obesity efforts as the administration sets rules for food in school vending machines and other snacks.

At Parklawn Elementary School, food service chief Penny McConnell says the meals on cafeteria trays will be healthier, and the benefits could last a lifetime.

“If we get the children at the elementary age, then I think we’ve won them through adolescence [and then young adults] and they’ll take these practices into their adulthood.”

It is a goal Obama will be pursuing during her husband's second term: nurturing the seeds she planted in the first.

You May Like

Analysis: China Raises Hong Kong Rhetoric to Tiananmen Level

A front-page commentary in The People’s Daily called the current demonstrations 'chaos,' the same word Party officials used 25 years ago to describe the Tiananmen Square protests More

US Airstrikes Anger Syrian Civilians Fleeing Their Homes

Pentagon officials say they have seen no credible evidence of civilian deaths caused by US airstrikes against Islamic State militants More

Child Sexual Exploitation to Worsen in SE Asia

Southeast Asia’s planned economic integration is a key step for boosting the region’s productivity, but carries downsides as well More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: amishjihad from: Zürich Switzerland
January 20, 2013 5:04 AM
Last summer on a vacation back to the states, I drove from Chicago through Illinois and Iowa into S. Dakota and as far as the eye could see I saw mile after mile of corn and soy beans and nothing else. 85% of ALL crops that are grown in the good old USA go to feeding into and perpetuating the shame that is called the animal farming industry. Plus most, if not all crops are genetically modified and are regularly sprayed with Roundup and other deadly chemicals. Not a vegetable was being grown during that drive, as far as I could tell and I grew up on a farm so I know the difference. Why are vegetables so expensive? Because America doesn't grow that many. America is so nutritionally ignorant and has dug a hole so deep through it's stupidity that I just don't see it recovering any time soon. This ignorance has now become generational and there are no safety nets in place, institutional wise, in America to help assist people and turn this problem around. The Capitalistic system and America has abandoned its citizens for profit and now everyone is whinning, what happened? Is a little organic vegetable garden grown on the White House Lawn going to help. Yes, and I applaud the First Lady for taking action and at least trying. This obesity epidemic is the war on tobacco times 100. As I recall growing up I didn't see young children smoking but today most if not all are hooked on sugar and caffeine.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid