First Lady Michelle Obama celebrates the fifth anniversary of her “Let’s Move!” initiative:
We certainly have plenty to celebrate. Over the past five years, we have seen a real cultural shift across our country. Food and beverage companies are racing to cut sugar, salt, and fat from their products. Cities, towns, and counties are supporting healthy after-school programs and youth sports leagues. Faith leaders are educating their congregations about healthy eating and physical activity. Restaurants are offering healthier versions of their dishes, and fast food places are even including apple slices and low-fat milk in their kids’ meals.
Through Let’s Move!, we’re reaching millions of kids every day: 1.6 million kids are attending healthier day cares, where fruits and vegetables have replaced cookies and juice. More than 30 million kids are eating healthier school lunches. Nearly 9 million kids participate in our Active Schools program and get 60 minutes of physical activity a day, and nearly 5 million kids will be attending healthier after-school programs in the next five years.
Mrs. Obama states that child obesity rates have leveled off in recent years. Rates among poor, young children declined in 18 states during the first few years of the Let’s Move! program. A report published last year in JAMA found that the prevalence of obesity among children aged 2 to 5 years decreased significantly from 14% in 2003-2004 to 8.4% in 2011-2012.
Still, obesity rates in the U.S. remain too high: 8.1% for infants and toddlers; 16.9% in children 2-19 years old; and 34.9% in adults aged 20 years and older. Mrs. Obama looks at the costs in terms of health and wealth (“We still spend nearly $200 billion a year on obesity-related health care costs, and that figure will jump to nearly $350 billion a year by 2018 — a 75% increase in just three years”) and challenges all of us to push forward, together:
We need to protect the progress we’ve made on healthier school lunches, and we need more schools to find new ways to get kids active before, during, and after the school day. We need more cities to create safe walking routes to schools and restore bike paths and hiking trails so families can get active. And we need to be more creative in spreading the word about healthy eating and physical activity.
For example, we recently launched #GimmeFive — an online campaign through which you share five ways you’re leading a healthy life and then challenge someone else to “gimme five” more ways to get active or eat healthy — do five pushups, try five new recipes, take the stairs instead of the elevator for five days in a row. The vice president has done it, as have Beyonce, Ryan Seacrest, Dwyane Wade, and so many other kids, parents, teachers, and community leaders across the country.
And finally, I want to challenge everyone to take a stand for healthy choices with their wallets. Because at the end of the day, we know who has the real power: It’s consumers.
With every product we buy at the grocery store, we’re casting our vote for the kind of food we want for our families. And if we keep demanding healthier choices, then companies will provide those choices.
Check out The PediaBlog’s “Taste Buds” and learn how you can keep your family’s food choices “real.”