What do you get when you gather 150 mom influencers from across the nation and include them in a conversation about our children? You get a trending hashtag and a message spread across the Internet: Let’s Move!
They have difficult discussions, share intimate details of their lives: parenting hiccups, moments of heartbreak, and moments that make your heart melt.; most importantly, their candid writing resonates with parents across the globe. “They” are mom bloggers, writer moms, parenting writers; whatever you call them, their public voices provide comfort for others struggling through this thing called parenting.
On Tuesday, March 15, 2016, First Lady, Michelle Obama, and Deb Eschmeyer, Executive Director of Let’s Move! and Senior Policy Advisor for Nutrition, invited moms to the White House to join in a discussion about the progress of the Let’s Move! initiative. In its sixth year, Let’s Move! is well on its way to achieving its goal: solving childhood obesity within a generation by arming parents with information, fostering environments that support healthy choices, and transitioning to healthier foods in schools.
Named to inspire action at every level, in every sector, Let’s Move! has transformed how parents talk to their children about food, from educating communities about nutrition, to making significant changes in what our children are eating at school – gone are the days of the pizza, French fries, and chocolate milk lunch.
The results are measurable, with Let’s Move! reporting more than 30 million children eating healthier school meals, over 10 million children attending Let’s Move! Active Schools and 1.6 million attending healthier daycare centers, and thousands of chain restaurants revamping their children’s menus to offer healthy options.
Mom influencers were treated to several panels, providing progress reports on each arm of the Let’s Move! initiative. Dr. Karen DeSalvo, Acting Assistant Secretary for Health shared how Let’s Move! is making a difference at the community level, and Dominique Dawes, mom, three-time Olympic gymnast and Co-chair of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition talked about the importance of parents modeling good food and exercise habits through example.
In the Private Sector, Ryan Shadrick Wilson, Chief Strategy Officer and General Counsel, Partnership for a Healthier America, shared how the Eat Brighter campaign is influencing our youngest children by using Sesame Street characters (Elmo!) to market fruits and vegetables. Did you know Cookie Monster is all about the carrots, now? Perhaps the most strategic initiative is the massive marketing effort aimed at Millennials, FNV, branding Fruits n’ Veggies and using over 55 celebrities (who donated their time) to advertise on billboards, magazine ads, and commercials.
The First Lady, Michelle Obama, explained that the Let’s Move! campaign got its roots from an alarming visit to the pediatrician when Malia and Natasha were young. The entire Obama family was busy, with activities, work and business travel pushing them to eat fast, easy meals; meals that, unbeknownst to them, were slowly taking a toll on their health. As the First Lady recounts, her pediatrician asked what she was feeding the girls, and her first response was that of any mother – alarm, and “What do you mean I’m not getting an ‘A’ on this mothering thing?”
Mrs. Obama started by making small changes, cooking meals at home, swapping sugary drinks with water, and switching salty, processed snacks out for fruits and vegetables. The changes were initially met with resistance, but the First Lady stressed the importance of the parents’ role in making buying decisions at the grocery store.
“Parents should have more control and more choices when it comes to our kids’ foods. When our kids come home and say ‘I don’t like math’,” said the First Lady, “we don’t say ‘it’s okay not to learn math.’ Why would we treat nutrition any differently?”
At the girls’ next checkup, everything was back to normal, and the Obama’s pediatrician was now asking her what she had done. When the Obamas took office, the First Lady knew that combating childhood obesity, and obesity-related diseases, would be the cause that she championed. The result? Let’s Move!
Says the First Lady, “As parents, we decide where we spend the money. We need to keep raising our voices, forcing change by voting with our wallets. We can’t afford not to give our kids nutritional food. Our children’s health isn’t a joke. [Childhood obesity] is a serious issue and we need to do something about it.”
Inviting some of the most influential voices in the parenting realm to join the discourse is part of Mrs. Obama’s plan to continue the progress that’s been made since the inception of the Let’s Move! program in 2010:
As First Lady, I’ve seen the impact of this work on a national scale, as well. After so many years, childhood obesity rates have stopped rising and rates for our youngest kids have actually started to fall. I have no doubt, that if we keep pushing forward on these issues, one day, we will look back on the food we USED to feed our kids and it will be like looking back on the days when we didn’t wear seatbelts, or bike helmets, or sunscreen. So, make no mistake about it, what we’re doing is working and we can’t let up now. Not when we’re finally starting to see some progress. So for those of you who are wondering, I have no intentions of stopping this work once my family leaves the White House.
The gathering closed with a tour of where it all began at the White House: the White House Kitchen Garden.
Has your outlook towards food and dietary needs changed over the past 7 years?
A BIG thank you to Lauren B. Stevens for sharing her experience at the White House with our readers.