Tuesday, February 9, 2010 marked the first official day of First Lady Michelle Obama’s new nationwide campaign to wrestle childhood obesity in America. Obama’s “Let’s Move” crusade hit the ground running when President Obama signed a presidential memorandum sanctioning the first lady’s efforts.
The memo established a ninety day preparation, starting a task-force to provide “optimal coordination” between the various organizations involved in addressing the issue of childhood obesity.
The national task force is the first of its kind, deriving ammunition from the departments of the Interior, Agriculture and Education, Health and Human services, as well as back up of up to $1 billion a year in federal funds for 10 years.
In addition, several major corporations have already committed their support to Obama’s initiative, most notably CMT ONE COUNTRY, Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, Burger King, Verizon, PepsiCo, Sodexo, and ARAMARK. Each venue will be able to offer various roles in the “Let’s Move” crusade, some even going so far as to serve dual or multiple purposes.
Working full speed ahead, CMT has enlisted the aid of country superstar Darius Rucker to act as spokesperson for targeted public service broadcasts. Likewise, Verizon offers promotional support of the “Let’s Move” campaign.
Furthermore, Dr Pepper Snapple Group and Pepsico have each committed themselves to more prominently and concisely displaying the nutrition information on product labels.
And as national providers of food and nutrition services for public schools, Sodexo and ARAMARK have a projected potential to enhance the healthy eating habits of over 5.8 million students annually.
Burger King, however, is unique in that the franchise’s support will merely be a heightened continuation of Burger King’s already existing Positive Steps program, aimed at encouraging balanced diets and active lifestyle choices.
Furthermore, the initiative enjoys bipartisan support, as demonstrated by the attendance of both Republicans and Democrats at a noontime event in the State Dining Room following the signing of the Presidential Memorandum.
Unfortunately, public opinion has not been as unanimously favorable. Michelle Obama faced mixed reviews when she introduced the issue of obesity by offering her daughters, Sasha and Malia, as examples for her concerns.
“We’ve confused health and weight in a way that’s very confusing for children and very confusing for parents,” said Laura Collins Lyster-Mensh, an eating disorder activist and executive director of Families Empowered and Supporting Treatment of Disorder, in an interview with ABC News. “When we speak publicly about putting our children on a diet, we start to get into weight stigma and confusing the message to families.
However, childhood obesity impacts nearly one-third of the children in the United States, with one in three children becoming either overweight or obese, statistics which have prompted several nutrition and medical experts to commend the first lady’s approach.
“The fact that she made this public, about her own … modest changes she made was exactly that – that this is a public conversation about what we’re all doing,” said Dr. Judith Palfrey, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics during a similar interview. “It’s like a neighborhood conversation except that it’s national, about how we live.”
Obama’s campaign is divided into four components: increased physical activity, helping parents make better food choices, easier access to healthy foods, and, ultimately, personal accountability.
Overall, while the potential success of Obama’s crusade is still up in the air, both critics and fans agree that one thing is for sure—by challenging childhood obesity, the Obamas have signed on for rocky road ahead.