You may have heard about first lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” pulbic health program that intends to combat childhood obesity in the U.S. What you may not know is that Mrs. Obama had to confront the possibility of childhood obesity in her own children as a working parent. We wondered what else we might not know about Mrs. Obama’s public health campaign, so we compiled a list of facts about her program to share with you.
The initiative has four core plans: better nutrition information, increased physical activity, easier access to healthy foods and personal responsibility. The list below is divided into those four categories, and each link within those categories leads to news articles or to more information about that topic.
Better Nutrition Information
- More than 31 million children eat lunches provided through the National School Lunch Program, plus more than 11 million participate daily in the National School Breakfast Program. Many children eat half of their daily calories at schools.
- The new Healthier US Schools Challenge Program (HUSSC) has established rigorous standards for schools’ food quality, participation in meal programs, physical activity, and nutrition education. HUSSC provides recognition for schools that meet these standards.
- Over the next school year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will double the number of schools that meet the HUSSC Challenge and add 1,000 schools per year for two years after that. Few people know that the USDA allocates almost 70 percent of its budget to food programs.
- To help meet the goal of increasing the number of schools that meet the HUSSC Challenge, major school food suppliers have agreed to meet the Institute of Medicine’s recommendations within five years to decrease the amount of sugar, fat and salt in school meals, increase whole grains and double the amount of produce they serve within 10 years.
- Recently, the Administration unveiled its plans to enhance the nutrition and wellness of tens of millions of school children through the updating of the Child Nutrition Act.
- The Administration also announced a proposed increase in the federal budget of $1 billion per year for the next ten years to improve the quality of school meals, increase the number of kids participating (especially in the breakfast program), and to make sure schools have the resources they need to make changes.
Easier Access to Healthy Foods
- More than 23 million Americans, including 6.5 million children, live in low-income urban and rural neighborhoods that are more than a mile from a supermarket. These areas are known as “food deserts.” Find out if you live in one of those food deserts through this Food Environment Atlas.
- Lack of access to proper nutrition is one reason why many children are not eating the recommended levels of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Lack of food security and prevalence of hunger among American children is even more widespread.
- A recent USDA report showed that in 2008, an estimated 49.1 million people — including 16.7 million children, lived in households that experienced hunger multiple times throughout the year.
- As part of the President’s proposed FY 2011 budget, the Administration announced a new program — the Healthy Food Financing Initiative — a partnership among the U.S. Departments of Treasury, Agriculture and Health and Human Services, which will invest $400 million per year to provide financing to bring grocery stores to underserved areas and to help places such as convenience stores carry healthier foods.
- Grants also will help bring farmers markets and fresh foods into underserved communities, boosting both family health and local economies through the Farm to School program and The Food Trust.
Increased Physical Activity
- Children need 60 minutes of active and vigorous play every day to grow up to a healthy weight. If this sounds like a lot of time, consider that 8-18 year-olds devote an average of 7.5 hours per day to using entertainment media including TV, computers, video games, cell phones and movies.
- To increase physical activity, today’s children need safe routes to walk and ride to school, parks, playgrounds and community centers where they can play and be active after school.
- Plans are in the making to alter the President’s Physical Fitness Challenge so it’s not just about how athletic kids are — how many sit-ups and push-ups they can do — but how active they are each day.
- The Presidential Active Lifestyle Award is provided through the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. This challenge for both children and adults is to build healthy habits by committing to regular physical activity five days a week, for six weeks. Measuring daily activity for six weeks isn’t easy, and this effort deserves recognition.
- As part of the First Lady’s commitment to solve the problem of childhood obesity in a generation, the Council will double the number of children in the 2010-2011 school year who earn a “Presidential Active Lifestyle Award” by engaging in regular physical activity.
- Professional athletes from a dozen different leagues are moving to help ensure kids get 60 minutes of active play each day through sports clinics, partnerships, public information campaigns and more.
- Other athletes, such as Apolo Ohno, have begun their own initiatives to help teens build a healthier future.
- Unless something is done to reduce childhood obesity, America’s children are on track to live shorter lives than their parents for the first time in U.S. history. Parents play a key role in making healthy choices for their children because the earliest decisions regarding food and physical activity occur in the home.
- The goal is to eliminate “food deserts” across the country within seven years. This spring, LetsMove.gov will unveil special tool kits and strategies to help increase access to healthy, affordable food in communities across the country as well as in the schools.
- Encourage your school to participate in the HUSSC Challenge. Schools can participate in this model program by learning about the range of educational and technical assistance materials that promote key aspects of the Dietary Guidelines, including a Menu Planner for Healthy School Meals.
- Encourage your doctor to help. The American Academy of Pediatrics will educate doctors, nurse practitioners and nurses across the country about obesity to ensure they regularly monitor your child’s Body Mass Index, provide counseling for healthy eating, and even write a prescription for parents laying out the simple things they can do to increase healthy eating and active play.
- By the end of this year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will complete guidance for retailers and manufacturers to adopt new nutritionally sound and consumer friendly front-of-package labeling.
- Since more adults are now reading food labels, this is a good time to make sure that labels are accurate and honest for you to use in your own purchases.
- The USDA plans to revamp the famous food pyramid symbol and online interactive tools. A 2.0 version of the MyPyramid.gov site will offer families a host of tools to help put the Dietary Guidelines into practice at school and at home.