Eating Healthy And Combating Childhood Obesity

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Michelle Obama

REMARKS BY THE FIRST LADY AT A LET’S MOVE! SCHOOL WELLNESS STANDARDS ANNOUNCEMENT

The East Room

I want to start by thanking Sam for that very outstanding introduction.  We were saying backstage, don't you believe him?  Good kid, good -- great speaker.  And thank you for your commitment and for being such a great role model.  And also, to JoAnne for the terrific work that you're doing to help kids lead healthier lives.  I know the work isn’t easy, but it takes parents like you being engaged.  So we are so proud of you and your entire family.  Thank you for joining us today.

I also want to recognize our outstanding Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, who has been such a great friend and a leader on this issue.  We could not do what we do without all your work and your entire team.  We are so proud of you.  We have been working together from the very beginning, and it is always an honor and a privilege to see the great strides that we're making together.  So let’s give Tom a big round of applause. 

And of course, most of all, I want to thank all of you -- the advocates, the educators, the leaders who’ve been with us from the very beginning of this journey.

As you all remember, back when we first launched Let's Move this whole healthy eating thing was still kind of a novelty.  Back then, if a school grew a garden or installed a salad bar, if a fast food restaurant started selling a healthy item or a business offered employees incentives to exercise more, that was a big deal.  Some folks even warned me that taking on childhood obesity might be controversial.  They thought kids and parents should deal with these issues privately.  Others laughed it off as not a real issue at all. 

Well, four years later, that all seems like ancient history. Today, big chain restaurants have whole menus of healthy choices. Entire organizations are working to plant school gardens.  And water just surpassed soda as the most commonly consumed beverage in America.  Yay!  Go, water.  Drink up. 

And today, folks are really starting to think about what they eat and how active they are, so they’re scrutinizing labels; they’re asking questions; they’re changing what they feed their families.  And just as we no longer smoke or drink when we’re pregnant, just as we no longer let our kids ride their bikes without a helmet or sit in the backseat of the car without a car seat, today, we know that we can no longer let our kids eat whatever they want, because now we know better.  Now we’ve seen the devastating effects that poor nutrition has on their health.

And this new approach to eating and activity is not just a fad, and it’s no longer just a movement.  Instead, here in America, healthy habits are becoming the new norm.  And nowhere is that more clear than in our schools, which have been a core focus of Let's Move right from the very beginning.

See, Let's Move is based on a very simple idea that parents should be in control of their kids’ health.  And their good efforts at home shouldn’t be undermined when they send their kids off to school.  Parents have a right to expect that during the school day, their kids will have food that meets basic nutrition standards, and they’ll have a chance to maybe move around a little bit while they’re there, too.

And that’s why we launched Let’s Move Active Schools.  And today, more than 6,500 schools are bringing physical activity back into the classrooms.  And because of the child nutrition bill we passed back in 2010, today nearly 90 percent of our schools -- 90 percent of them -- have already implemented new school lunch standards.

With the hard work of so many administrators and chefs, nutrition professionals and others, these schools have literally transformed their menus.  They’re serving more fruits and veggies, more whole grains and more lean protein.  And starting next fall, they’ll be offering only healthy snacks and beverages in their vending machines as well.

So this is a big deal.  And so far, these changes have been a resounding success.  In fact, in a number of American school districts -- places like Dallas, Orlando, Cincinnati -- although they’re not charging any more for their lunches, they’re actually making more money because more kids are participating in the school lunch programs.

So we’re making some real strides in our schools.  And that's why I’m thrilled to continue this progress with two very important announcements we’re making today. 

The first is that we’re issuing new school wellness guidelines to help build healthier learning environments for our kids.  And as part of this effort, we’ll be eliminating advertisements for unhealthy food and beverages in our schools.  Because I think we can all agree that our classrooms should be healthy places where kids are not bombarded with ads for junk food.

And these new marketing guidelines are actually part of a broader effort to inspire companies to rethink how they market food to kids in general.  Because the fact is, today, the average child watches thousands of food advertisements each year, and 86 percent of these ads are for products loaded with sugar, fat or salt.  And, by contrast, our kids see an average of just one ad a week for healthy products like water, fruits and vegetables.  Just one.  So that’s why we convened the first ever White House Summit on food marketing to children, where I urged businesses to stop marketing unhealthy foods to our kids and do more to get kids excited about healthy foods.  And that same principle should apply to our schools.

Our second announcement today focuses on school breakfast, and I cannot possibly overstate how important this is, because right now, millions of children in this country are showing up for school hungry every day.  And too many kids aren’t eating breakfast even when it’s provided because they feel like there’s a stigma with participating in the school breakfast program.  And this is happening here in the wealthiest country on Earth, and it’s intolerable.

And that’s why we’re expanding our school breakfast program, ensuring that nearly 9 million kids in 22,000 schools start their day with a nutritious breakfast.  And as you all know, this doesn’t just affect their health, it affects their performance in school.  In fact, a recent study showed that kids who eat a healthy breakfast perform 17.5 percent better on math tests, and they have fewer disciplinary problems.

So this is critical for our kids’ future and it’s also critical for the future of our country -- because healthy and well-educated kids are more likely to become healthy, well-educated adults who will build a productive workforce and a vibrant economy for generations to come.

So with these two announcements today, and the initiatives we’ve launched these past four years, we are well on our way to building healthier schools for all of our children.  And I want us just to take a moment to really think about what this will mean for our kids in the years ahead.  Children born today will be accustomed to eating healthy food during the school day.  So, for them, the norm will be fruits and vegetables, and not chips and candy.  And instead of sitting endlessly at their desks with no breaks, the norm will be kids up and moving throughout the day -- in gym, in recess, and during breaks in between lessons.

And to the extent these kids are seeing advertisements, those ads will be for healthy products.  So, hopefully, at the grocery store, they’ll be begging us for items from the produce aisle rather than the snack food aisle, because that’s what they’re seeing on TV.  And if we keep coming together and working together, all of this will be the new norm for our kids here in this country.  For our youngest kids, this might be all they’ll ever know, and these changes will shape their habits and tastes for the rest of their lives, including what they buy and feed their own kids in the years to come.

So if there’s anyone out there who was thinking to themselves, in a few years this lady will be gone -- -- and this whole Let’s Move thing will finally be over so we can go back to business as usual -- if you know anyone out there who might be thinking that way, you might want to remind them that I didn’t create this issue and I’m not the one who is truly driving it forward.  All of you are. 

And that’s really my message to all of you today:  Keep on doing what you’re doing -- because with every healthy choice you make in the grocery store or at a restaurant, you’re making a statement about the food you want for your kids.  And while your kids might grumble at first when you serve them this food, you know that if you stand firm, they’ll adjust.  That’s our job as parents -– to hold steady through the whining.  We do that all the time.

No child wants to brush their teeth or go to the doctor for shots, but we make them do those things anyway because these are the norms for keeping our kids healthy.  And healthy eating and physical activity are really no different.  These are becoming the new norms for raising healthy kids.  So we need to keep it up.  We need to keep on coming up with new ideas to get kids excited about healthy habits, particularly in our schools.

So many of you are leading the way.  For example, at Marshall High School in Virginia, kids actually wrote and performed a “wrap” song –- and that’s “wrap” spelled with a “W.” And the goal was to get their classmates excited about healthy eating.  And here’s one of the lyrics that I love:  “If I’m gonna help my brain come to fruition, I’m gonna have to feed it quality nutrition.  We love the cookies but they’re not sufficient.  We need veggies to make our bodies efficient.  Roll my chicken in a wrap, don’t jam it in a nugget. Get hyped for healthy snacks; fresh food –- we love it.”  Pretty good. Holla!  Love that.  Don’t jam it in a nugget -- not my chicken.

This is just one example of the explosion of good ideas in our schools.  And to celebrate the fourth anniversary of Let’s Move, I am asking folks across America to get up and show me how you move.  Show me the fun, creative things you’re doing in your homes, schools and communities to get kids excited about eating healthy and being active.  Show me how you move.  I want you to tweet it, Facebook it, Instagram it with the hashtag #LetsMove so that everyone can see how you’re moving towards a healthier future.

If we get enough of a response, we might have a little surprise from the President and the Vice President.  I’m just saying. And I ask you to do this not just to celebrate our progress, but to motivate us for all the work that still lies ahead.  Because while childhood obesity rates are beginning to fall, we still have a long way to go before we solve this problem once and for all.  And that’s what the next three years will be all about.  They’ll be about pushing forward to reinforce these new norms -- because we have come so far, so we can’t slow down and we can’t turn back now.

So we have to understand there’s a lot at stake -- not just for our kids’ health and success, but for the success of our entire country.  So we need to keep pushing and innovating and inspiring each other to do more for our next generation.  And if we do that, I am confident that we can give our kids the happy, healthy futures they so richly deserve.

So I look forward to working with all of you together.  I’m excited to see how everybody is moving out there throughout the country.  And I can’t wait to see everything we achieve in the years to come.

So thank you all again for your dedication, and God bless you.  Take care. 

 

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