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First Lady enters year two of campaign to wipe out childhood obesity

First Lady Michelle Obama on Wednesday marked the first anniversary of the Let’s Move campaign that she is spearheading to solve the problem of childhood obesity in a generation. Declaring that, “We have a voice,” First Lady Michelle Obama on Wednesday marked the first anniversary of the Let’s Move campaign that she is spearheading to solve the problem of childhood obesity in a generation.

 First Lady Michelle Obama visited a second grade class at the Burgess-Peterson Academy in Atlanta on Wednesday (Feb. 9). Mrs. Obama, who marked the first anniversary of the Let’s Move! initiative, praised the school for its efforts to promote healthy living. (White House photo by Lawrence Jackson)

“We’re gaining momentum.  But as far as we’ve come, when nearly one in three kids in this country is still overweight or obese, then we’ve still got a long way to go,” Mrs. Obama said to a parent-laden audience in the North Point Community Church in Atlanta.

“And for parents like us, this isn’t just a public health threat.  It’s not just some abstract issue that we read about in the newspaper.  This is personal.  This is emotional.  It’s one of those things that keeps us lying awake at night.”

The proposed solution unit – the nationwide campaign called Let’s Move – is designed to combat the epidemic of childhood obesity with a comprehensive approach that engages every sector impacting the health of children. Schools, families and communities are promised simple tools to help kids be more active, eat better, and get healthy.

Speaking as a parent, the First Lady acknowledged the daily challenges that parents face. She encouraged them to continue pushing for change.

In the first year, when parents asked for fresh, nutritious foods in their communities, food manufacturers responded with their Healthy Weight Commitment pledging to cut 1.5 trillion calories a year from their products, Mrs. Obama said.

And when parents asked for healthier communities, Let’s Move! Cities and Towns was created resulting in 500 mayors joining the effort, she added.

“If there’s one message I want to send to parents today, it’s this: we have a voice. And when we come together and use that voice, we can change the way companies do business and Congress makes laws. We can transform our schools and neighborhoods and cities. And today, I want to urge everyone to keep using that voice, keep standing up and demanding something better for our kids.”

Mrs. Obama said there is a core need to have a new conversation about “what our kids eat and how they move.  It’s about how they feel and how they feel about themselves.  And it’s about what that means, not just for their physical and emotional health, but for their success in school and in life.”

Noting what she called the first signs of a fundamental shift in how we live and eat, the First Lady said changes have occurred at every level of our society – from classrooms, to boardrooms, to the halls of Congress.  

“You asked for more fresh, nutritious food in your communities.  So we’re working to bring more grocery stores into underserved areas. You wanted healthier, more affordable options on those grocery store shelves. So food manufacturers made a ‘Healthy Weight Commitment,’ pledging to cut 1.5 trillion calories a year from their products.  And Walmart promised to sell products with less sugar, salt and trans-fat – and to reduce prices on healthy items like fresh fruits and vegetables.”

Imagine, she said, what will be achieved next year and thereafter.

Children don’t come with an instruction manual, Mrs. Obama said.

“You see, the irony is that with all our advances in technology, with all those experts and advice-givers out there, it’s actually become harder, not easier, to raise healthy kids in this country,” she said.

“Instead of kickball and jump rope, kids sit motionless, unblinking for hours clicking, typing and texting away.  Fresh fruits and vegetables have gotten more expensive, while convenience foods have gotten cheaper. And let’s be honest sometimes, as parents today, we are just plain tired. We’re working longer hours to make ends meet.  We’re under more stress. We get home after a long day at work and the last thing on earth we want to do is fight with our kids about turning off the TV, or have endless negotiations about what’s for dinner.”

The consequences go far beyond childrens’ health, she said, “For example, believe it or not, right now, nearly 27 percent of 17-24 year-olds are too overweight to serve in our military.”

While others influence children, ultimately parents are in charge and “we need to help each other. We need to share good ideas and cheer each other on. And we need to get other parents involved in this cause,” the First Lady said.

“Because ultimately, that’s really how Let’s Move! works.”

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