Friday, March 05, 2010

First Lady Drills With Kids, Sam Kass Pitches Healthy Eating At Youth Soccer Clinic

Pro soccer is newest campaign partners for Let's Move!
There was a field of healthy dreams on Friday at City Center in Washington, in a tented arena downtown. First Lady Michelle Obama brought Let's Move!--and her Food Initiative Coordinator, Sam Kass--to a youth soccer clinic, for the first official Let's Move! event that's actually involved Mrs. Obama moving with local kids. White House assistant chef Kass was on hand to serve the kids some good advice about how to eat right. Encouraging children to engage in sixty minutes of active play each day is one of the pillars of Let's Move!

The US Soccer Foundation and Major League Soccer have joined Let's Move!, as have the NFL, and other pro sports organizations. At the event, Mrs. Obama and about sixty kids drilled with soccer stars Christian Castillo, Jaime Moreno, and Eddie Pope of the local Major League Soccer team, DC United. (Above: Mrs. Obama plays one-on-one with one of the kids as DC United's Pope looks on; Kass is with Talon, the team mascot)

Before she hit the field with the kids, Mrs. Obama warned the youngsters that she isn't so hot at their favorite sport.

"I'm not a soccer player, so you've got to help me out here. Promise you'll help me out?" Mrs. Obama said to the group, ages 6-11. The kids happily agreed.

"Okay, let's do this. Let's Move!" Mrs. Obama said.

The arena was awash in bright colors and lights in the shape of soccer balls, and music blasted as Mrs. Obama, clad in chic black workout gear and a silver jacket, zipped around the astro turf with the kids. (Above: Mrs. Obama with some of the kids)

It rapidly became clear to the kids that Mrs. Obama was bluffing. She passed, she received, she played one-on-one. The kids seemed to forget they were playing the First Lady and pro players, and became intent on getting the ball.

Mrs. Obama shed her jacket as she kept up with the young soccer enthusiasts. There was a brief collision with a plyometric pole, during a moment that was almost as classic as when Mrs. Obama hula hooped on the South Lawn last Fall: She sprinted backwards through an obstacle course, to the amazement of the kids and gathered adults.

Before the ball mania started, Mrs. Obama spoke to the kids about the importance of active play every day, and told them how much she loves soccer.

"You know, you've got to move," Mrs. Obama said, "And soccer is one of my favorite ways of doing it. My girls have been playing since they were both about three."

Mrs. Obama told the kids that for parents, "soccer is fun to watch," and added that she and President Obama are looking forward to Malia's upcoming soccer season. Sasha, she told the kids, still plays soccer, but has lately taken up basketball, too.

After about a half hour of play, Mrs. Obama handed out high fives, and hugs. The First Lady posed for a group photo with the youngsters (above). She left, with many waves of farewell.

Then it was Kass's turn to pitch Let's Move! to the kids. They probably didn't know that Kass is a former star baseball player (and it turns out he's handy with a soccer ball, too), but when he was introduced as the White House chef, Kass had their full attention. (Above: Kass, center, with DC United players and the kids)

The kids listened raptly as Kass gave them a quick pep talk about the importance of healthy eating, and limiting junk foods. He talked salads and fruit, promo'd water instead of sweetened beverages.

"And it's not just for sports," Kass said. "Anything you want to be, eating right is important."

"Who wants to be a lawyer?" Kass asked the kids. A few hands shot up. "A writer?" More hands. "A firefighter?" More hands. "A soccer player?" Every hand went up.

The DC United players nodded enthusiastically as Kass said "fruit" and "vegetables" and "protein." (Above: Kass points at DC United player Jaime Moreno. "He eats fruit all the time," Kass said)

Kass took some questions from the kids, who queried him further about food choices.

"Pizza is fine sometimes," Kass responded to one child inquisitor. "But not all the time." And yes, the Obamas eat pizza, sometimes.

It seemed like Kass was trying not to laugh as he answered the final question.

"No," Kass said. "I do not live at the White House."

When Kass was through, the kids filed out to get box lunches donated by DC eatery Atrium Cafe. The healthy meal included a turkey sandwich with lettuce and tomato on whole grain bread, carrots, grapes, and non-fat milk, the kind of lunch Mrs. Obama is hoping becomes a regular part of the improved federal school nutrition program, another pillar of Let's Move!

One of the young soccer players held up her bag of grapes. "I'm going to eat all of these," she said. "The White House cook said it's good for me."

About thirty-five of the kids who played with Mrs. Obama attend after school soccer clinics run by the US Soccer Foundation and DC United; executive director Kate Larned said about 600 local kids participate. The Foundation runs twelve programs for boys and girls in first through fourth grade, which are held at the Boys and Girls Club of DC, and parks and recreation facilities.

Larned said the Foundation is thrilled to join Let's Move!, and thrilled to have the first Lady leading a national campaign for child health.

"We have the same goals," Larned said. "Let's Move! fits in with what we've been doing for about three years with inner city kids, teaching healthy lifestyles, and literacy, and nutrition education." Larned was helping intern Tracy Gallfaro, a college senior, climb into the Foundation's oversized and furry Eagle mascot costume as she discussed the program. Gallfaro is the mascot in the photo of Kass at the top of this post.

"Sports are a great way to teach kids life skills, and we're so happy to work with the White House," Larned said.

During the event, the US Soccer Foundation announced a new and ambitious partnership with the National Alliance for Hispanic Health, which brings together the Foundation’s Passback Tour and the Alliance’s ¡Vive tu Vida! Get Up! Get Moving!, the nation’s largest Hispanic family health lifestyle event series with over 15,000 participants annually. The combined tour will provide children and their families in 25 US cities with free health screenings and soccer clinics, to emphasize the importance of physical activity, proper diet and healthy lifestyles, and connect families with local soccer programs that will help children achieve the recommended sixty minutes of physical activity each day. Major League Soccer joins the NFL, the NHL, and other pro sports organizations in supporting the campaign.

*For more information on youth soccer, and the tour and health clinics, click the links above. For more information on Let's Move!, go here. Photos by Obama Foodorama.