First Lady Michelle Obama Celebrates the First Year of 'Let's Move!'

Filed under: Nutrition: Health, In The News

Michelle Obama Let's Move

Michelle Obama discussed the Let's Move! campaign on the "Today" show on Feb. 9, 2011. Credit: Peter Kramer, AP Photo/NBC Universal, Inc.

Today marks the first anniversary of Let's Move!, the comprehensive initiative launched last year by first lady Michelle Obama with the goal of solving the problem of childhood obesity in a generation.

To celebrate this milestone, in a news conference today the first lady shared some updates about the progress that's been made during the first year of the initiative.

"We've developed some incredible coalitions and made some terrific accomplishments," Obama says. "It wasn't clear we would get the kind of momentum we're seeing with an issue so big and so complicated. We wondered if the country was really ready, if people were going to step up, if we were going to be able to engage every sector."

But she says every sector is stepping up -- the medical community, schools, athletes, mayors, community leaders and others -- and they're starting to see a fundamental shift in the conversation, in how we move and in how we get our food.

The first lady points to several programs and new legislation that are helping the campaign, including the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which President Obama signed last December. Among other things, this act gives the U.S. Department of Agriculture the authority to set nutritional standards for all foods sold in schools during the school day -- including vending machines and school stores.

The legislation also provides additional funding to schools that meet updated nutritional standards, expands access to drinking water in schools and helps communities establish local farm-to-school networks and create school gardens to help ensure more local foods are used in schools.

The first lady also praises the schools that have been participating in the HealthierUS School Challenge, a voluntary certification program that helps promote excellence in nutrition and physical activity for kids. The program incentivize schools with monetary awards to motivate them to help raise a healthier generation of kids; the funds -- ranging from $500 to $2,000 -- going directly to nonprofit school food service accounts.

And, to help combat the vast "food deserts" that exist in so many parts of the country, where access to affordable healthful food is practically nonexistent, the first lady points to the Healthy Food Financing Initiative. The initiative, which was announced a year ago, is designed to bring grocery stores and other healthy food retailers to underserved urban and rural communities across America, and it will help meet the Let's Move! goal of ending food deserts in the next seven years.

"We can't just tell people to feed their kids more healthful food, and then let them look around and not have an affordable place to buy that food," Obama says.

To address physical activity, a major component of the Let's Move! initiative, the first lady says they want kids to move even 60 minutes a day; but you don't have to join a sports league or run on a treadmill for an hour to accomplish that goal.

"For many people it can be turning on the radio and dancing in the living room, walking with your kids, or taking your dog for a walk in the park," she said.

Michelle Obama says that the President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition has been looking at ways to make healthy activity and healthy living fun, including the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA) challenge, which motivates kids, teens and adults to add physical activity to their lives and rewards them with presidential recognition.

"The PALA awards are one way we try to make it fun," the first lady says. "We try to get kids to understand that exercise is really a code word for 'play.' "

Looking ahead, she says Let's Move! will challenge everyone to do more in year two.

"Let's Move! is not just a slogan, it's actually a call to action," she says. "We need more schools to participate, more parents engaged and stepping up to change habits in the home and share best practices with other families."

We'll also see more folks stepping up to engage kids, the first lady says, pointing to the kick-off of a program last summer that brought school children to the South Lawn of the White House to play. The hope is that kids will see other kids playing on the White House lawn and understand that exercise is fun -- just like we used to do in our backyards years ago.

There's even a Let's Move! initiative aimed at getting 6,000 salad bars into 6,000 schools this year.

"I'm proud of this year, of all that we've done and of the country for embracing what is important to all of us," the first lady says. "We've seen a lot of progress ... But with one in three kids either overweight or obese, we're near the finish line but there's a lot more to do."

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.