This week two major forces launched programs tackling our country’s disturbing trend of childhood obesity: First Lady Michelle Obama and British food personality, Jamie Oliver.
Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move
Newsweek‘s March 22 cover featured the First Lady with an apple and the title “Feed Your Children Well: My Fight Against Childhood Obesity.” In the magazine she writes a personal essay about her new program: Let’s Move. Her nationwide campaign has a single goal: to solve the problem of childhood obesity in a generation, so that children born today can reach adulthood at a healthy weight.
The First Lady says the solution to childhood obesity rests not with a bill from Congress or an executive order from her husband, but “instead, it’s about what all of us can do to help our kids (and grandkids) lead active, healthy lives.” Her program has four key components:
- Help parents make healthier choices for their families.
- Provide healthier food in our schools.
- Help our children to be more physically active.
- Make healthy affordable food available in every part of our country.
Mrs. Obama hopes that this national initiative will eliminate “food deserts” in this country and take families out of isolation.
Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution
This series debuted this week on ABC television. After Oliver’s successful 2005 campaign, called “Feed me Better,” to move British schoolchildren towards eating healthy foods and cutting junk food, the British government pledged to address the issue. Now he’s focusing his efforts on the town of Huntington, West Virginia, which was recently designated the unhealthiest town in America.
Nowhere was this “food desert” more apparent than in the first grade classroom of a Huntington, West Virginia elementary school. Oliver brought in a basket of fresh vegetables and asked the first graders to name each one as he held them up. Beginning with a cluster of bright red tomatoes and ending with a potato, not one child could name any of the vegetables. For me, it was both shocking and heartbreaking to see these beautiful children unaware of something that my family and I take for granted as basic knowledge.
My two granddaughters recently harvested their first crop of broccoli and chard from their vegetable garden. When my daughter prepared it for dinner that night, the seven-year old said: “That’s the best broccoli I’ve ever tasted!” My granddaughters have learned to enjoy vegetables from their mother, who learned it from me, and I learned it from my mother. I remember spending weekends with my grandmother and watching her lovingly prepare artichokes for our dinner. To this day artichokes are one of my favorite foods. Jamie Oliver didn’t bring an artichoke to the Huntington first graders, but if he had, I’m certain the children would not have been able to identify it.
It’s going to be a huge challenge to turn this country’s eating habits around. I applaud the First Lady and Jamie Oliver for tackling this vital issue. They both want to help families make manageable changes that fit with their schedules, their budgets, and their needs and tastes. They’ve also targeted schools and grocery stores to better serve communities that don’t have access to fresh foods.
It’s about time we’re making this a national issue and bringing it to everyone’s attention. We’re all responsible for helping America get healthy again. As Mrs. Obama says, it’s our move..