I had best comment on this before anyone asks. First Lady Michelle Obama wants to do something about childhood obesity and has gone into action. She announced her “Let’s Move” initiatives accompanied by much fanfare. Check out:
- The USDA Secretary’s promise to ask Congress to get junk food out of schools and provide breakfast and lunch to more kids (the New York Times discusses some of the reactions)
- The President’s appointment of a task force on childhood obesity
- The Ad Council’s public service announcements
- USA Today’s neat graphics on rising rates of childhood obesity
- USA Today’s maps of the environment of childhood obesity
- The USDA’s website atlas of the environment of food choice
- The American Beverage Association’s promise to put calories on the front of soft drink packages
- The American Academy of Pediatrics commitment to aid the White House effort
- And the Surgeon General’s Vision that I commented on two days ago
This is big news. I see much to admire here. The campaign focuses on kids. It is sensitive to political realities (it’s called the uncontroversial “Let’s Move,” not the inflammatory “Let’s Eat Less” or “Let’s Eat Better”). It’s brought a large number of groups on board (the New York Times account emphasizes this point). It aims to do something useful about school food and food “deserts” (areas without grocery stores). And it derives directly and explicitly from the White House garden.
I wasn’t able to watch the press conference but I hear that Will Allen was an invited speaker. Allen is the charismatic and highly effective head of Growing Power, which runs urban farms in Milwaukee and Chicago. I’m told he said:
- It’s a social justice issue.
- Every child in this country should have access to good food.
- We have to grow farmers.
Before the announcement, Marian Burros wrote in Politico.com about the barriers this effort will face (I’m quoted in her article). And the Los Angeles Times discussed the enormous and enormously successful lobbying effort undertaken by the soft drink industry against soda taxes. It predicted that the First Lady would not mention soda taxes when she announced her obesity campaign. Indeed, she did not.
But she did say:
The truth is our kids didn’t do this to themselves. Our kids didn’t choose to make food products with tons of fat and sugar and supersize portions, and then to have those foods marketed to them wherever they turn.
So let’s call this campaign a good first step and give it a big round of applause. I hoping everyone will give it a chance, help move it forward in every way possible, and keep fingers crossed that Mrs. Obama can pull it off.