by Marion Nestle
Mar 17 2010

Michelle Obama to Grocery Manufacturers: Let’s Move!

The First Lady spoke to the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) yesterday about her campaign to prevent childhood obesity.  According to one witness, Marian Burros, she scolded them – politely and with humor – but told them in no uncertain terms “to stop fattening our children.”

The GMA is a tough audience for messages about childhood obesity.  It represents the makers of processed foods and beverages who have much to lose from efforts to get kids to eat less of their products.

The speech itself is a masterpiece of tact, but Mrs. Obama clearly gets the issues loud and clear.  Here are some excerpts:

  • we need you not just to tweak around the edges, but to entirely rethink the products that you’re offering, the information that you provide about these products, and how you market those products to our children.
  • this needs to be a serious industry-wide commitment to providing the healthier foods parents are looking for at prices they can afford.
  • what it doesn’t mean is taking out one problematic ingredient, only to replace it with another. While decreasing fat is certainly a good thing, replacing it with sugar and salt isn’t.
  • it doesn’t mean compensating for high amounts of problematic ingredients with small amounts of beneficial ones — for example, adding a little bit of Vitamin C to a product with lots of sugar, or a gram of fiber to a product with tons of fat doesn’t suddenly make those products good for our kids.
  • This isn’t about finding creative ways to market products as healthy.
  • Parents are working hard to provide a healthy diet and to teach healthy habits — and we’d like to know that our efforts won’t be undermined every time our children turn on the TV or see a flashy display in a store.
  • what does it mean when so many parents are finding that their best efforts are undermined by an avalanche of advertisements aimed at their kids?
  • what are these ads teaching kids about food and nutrition? That it’s good to have salty, sugary food and snacks every day — breakfast, lunch, and dinner? That dessert is an everyday food? That it’s okay to eat unhealthy foods because they’re endorsed by the cartoon characters our children love and the celebrities our teenagers look up to?
  • if there is anyone here who can sell food to our kids, it’s you. You know what gets their attention. You know what makes that lasting impression. You know what gets them to drive their parents crazy in the grocery store.

Well done, Mrs. O.

Apparently, GMA members applauded her speech.  Let’s hope they act on it.

(Actually, they claim they are already fixing these problems.  More on that tomorrow).

As a mom, I know it is my responsibility — and no one else’s — to raise my kids.  But what does it mean when so many parents are finding that their best efforts are undermined by an avalanche of advertisements aimed at their kids?  And what are these ads teaching kids about food and nutrition?  That it’s good to have salty, sugary food and snacks every day — breakfast, lunch, and dinner?  That dessert is an everyday food? That it’s okay to eat unhealthy foods because they’re endorsed by the cartoon characters our children love and the celebrities our teenagers look up to?

Comments

She definitely made some great points and hit the processed food issue spot on…However, I’m afraid these companies are going to want an incentive to change.

I take it Grocery Manufacturers of America is the same Grocery Manufacturers Association?

Thanks for taking the time to provide the main points of the speech. I had to link to this article!

  • Don
  • March 17, 2010
  • 10:29 am

Any question why these people at GMA are Republicans?

[...] thought Marion Nestle posted a great re-cap of the First Lady’s speech on her blog, Food Politics. If you have time, please check it out, or if you have even more time, you should click on the link [...]

  • Anthro
  • March 17, 2010
  • 11:47 am

I can hardly wait for the next post on this; I’m betting that it will reflect a certain deafness on the part of the grocer’s group.

The First Lady took them on though, a lot more directly than many had predicted. I’m proud of her.

Great effort Mrs President, a well written speech.

Sounded like she had been reading your blog!

  • stan
  • March 17, 2010
  • 1:23 pm

Now please get Mrs. Obama to tell her husband to stop filling cabinet posts with advocates and supporters of Monsanto and GMO agriculture like Tom Vilsack.

She has her own organic garden — why are we getting more GMO?

[...] from Michelle Obama’s speech to the Grocery Manufactuers Association from Marion Nestle at Food Polictics – “she [...]

[...] Obama “Scolds” the GMAThanks to Food Politics for outlining excerpts of Mrs. Obama’s speech to the Grocery Manufacturer’s of America. It certainly packed a [...]

[...] Obama “Scolds” the GMAThanks to Food Politics for outlining excerpts of Mrs. Obama’s speech to the Grocery Manufacturer’s of America. It certainly packed a [...]

[...] on her terrific blog, Food Politics, located under “Blog Buddies” to your right, reports on Michelle Obama’s speech to the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), telling them to [...]

[...] as a result of Michelle Obama’s campaign (read my post here), companies are falling all over themselves–and with much fanfare–to tweak their [...]

  • Kris
  • March 19, 2010
  • 11:49 am

Why is it not possible for people to stop buying all of this unhealthy, over processed food? If you take the time to teach your kids about about healthy eating and actually provide healthy choices for them they will actually begin to make them on their own. Do my kids eat junky foods sometimes? Sure. But mostly we eat at home and have control over what we eat. There are so many resources on the internet to help with shopping, meal planning and meal preparation. There is truly no excuse to grab takeout every night. Just remember, if we stop buying it, they will stop making it. Demand more of yourself and use your power as a consumer to force change.

wince* While I’m totally behind the idea that marketing something low in fat but high in sugar as totally healthy isn’t accurate, I have a BIG problem with part of the message. Mrs. Obama implies that they somehow have the power to make a kid ask for something and that makes a parent BUY it. Come ON.

The children don’t buy the food. Who gives a damn how something is marketed to a six year old? Seriously. Embrace the wonders of saying “NO!” to a kid. Turn off the television.

The reason these things are pushed is because…. WE BUY THEM and they’re cheap to manufacture. But the parent is the one with the power here.

You control what goes in the grocery cart. You control what you pay for. Yes, little Knucklehead might roll around on the floor screaming and crying for his treasured Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs. No, the glares bestowing upon you the Crappy Parent of the Year award from other grocery store patrons isn’t much fun when you don’t placate the child to make him shut up so they can go back to shopping in peace. I get that. I’m a parent. Been there, done that. Dragging a kid along the floor who has gone Gandhi in protest isn’t fun.

Thing is, little Knucklehead probably isn’t that dumb. Screaming hurts one’s throat and cold grocery store floors aren’t really all that much fun to lie on. If you keep saying no consistently, they’ll get the point.

If you can’t handle enforcing a no when it comes to cereal and you’re the one with the checkbook, I don’t even want to think of what it’s going to look like when your kids are teenagers.

[...] Food Politics: Michelle Obama to Grocery Manufacturers – Let’s Move! MObama recently spoke to the GMA (note: Grocery Manufacturers Association, not Good Morning [...]

[...] Food Politics: Michelle Obama to Grocery Manufacturers – Let’s Move! MObama recently spoke to the GMA (note: Grocery Manufacturers Association, not Good Morning [...]

[...] Food Politics: Michelle Obama to Grocery Manufacturers – Let’s Move! MObama recently spoke to the GMA (note: Grocery Manufacturers Association, not Good Morning [...]

[...] Obama “Scolds” the GMAThanks to Food Politics for outlining excerpts of Mrs. Obama’s speech to the Grocery Manufacturer’s of America. It certainly packed a [...]

  • Jeff
  • March 21, 2010
  • 9:46 pm

Oh jeez here comes the Fed to take over another segment of our lives. First comes the vitriolic attack wrapped in niceness by the first lady, and soon we will start hearing about congressional hearings into “Big Food”. Of course there’s always the seed of truth in all these things but why do you people so willing surrender your freedoms to these hucksters in Big Government. It makes you all feel good to have a cause, great good for you but lets leave Mommy government out of this.

  • Babs
  • March 21, 2010
  • 10:28 pm

This is nice, but ultimately people are responsible for what they put in their mouths – It’s commonly referred to as personal responsibility. When I was growing up, which was before the store shelves were stocked with lowfat this and no-fat that, there was not a huge weight problem. Sure some people were overweight. But people didn’t blame food companies, manufacturers and stores. Now, that manufacturers and stores are the easy and so called “politically correct” target, they are blamed for everything and no one is responsible for his or her own actions. Hey, if you don’t like what some companies make, don’t buy it. Don’t buy it for yourself and don’t buy it for kids. Guess what, it really is that easy, don’t make excuses that this is hard to do.

  • Tamari Witkin Marcus
  • March 21, 2010
  • 10:35 pm

Thank You, Michelle Obama, for finally taking an active stance to an industry that really does have the power to change how children eat.

[...] Michelle Obama to Grocery Manufacturers: Let’s Move! [...]

[...] of childhood obesity has become Michelle Obama’s primary cause these days. Last week, she spoke to the Grocery Manufacturers Association (and the GMA responded), and she wrote a cover story for Newsweek, which was accompanied in the [...]

[...] You can download the speech Michelle presented to the Grocery Manufacturers Association and read Marion Nestle’s coverage of the event at: http://www.foodpolitics.com/2010/03/michelle-obama-to-grocery-manufacturers-lets-move/ [...]

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[...] eating habits.  Michelle Obama had strong words for the Grocery Manufacturers Association (here for excerpts) and she is providing a healthy role model with the White House Garden and speaking to [...]

[...] Obama “Scolds” the GMAThanks to Food Politics for outlining excerpts of Mrs. Obama’s speech to the Grocery Manufacturer’s of America. It certainly packed a [...]

[...] Obama “Scolds” the GMAThanks to Food Politics for outlining excerpts of Mrs. Obama’s speech to the Grocery Manufacturer’s of America. It certainly packed a [...]

[...] Obama “Scolds” the GMAThanks to Food Politics for outlining excerpts of Mrs. Obama’s speech to the Grocery Manufacturer’s of America. It certainly packed a [...]

[...] Obama “Scolds” the GMAThanks to Food Politics for outlining excerpts of Mrs. Obama’s speech to the Grocery Manufacturer’s of America. It certainly packed a [...]

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