Friday, April 09, 2010

Transcript: First Lady's Remarks, White House Child Obesity Summit - With Participant List

Experts & advocates give White House a buffet of advice
Update: A summation of the Report from the Childhood Obesity Task Force is here. Download a full report by clicking the link on the sidebar.
On Friday, First Lady Michelle Obama welcomed 101 guests to the White House for the first-ever meeting on childhood obesity.

Participants included health and food policy activists and advocates, corporate food executives, medical professionals, representatives from the diet and eating disorders sector, representatives from non-profits, fitness experts, and a few chefs who have created model school lunch programs.

Melody Barnes, chair of the Child Obesity Task Force, and special adviser to President Obama, led the event, joined by high-level administration officials who all play a critical role in Let's Move!. These included Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, OMB director Peter Orszag, and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, and Deputy Agriculture Secretary Kathleen Merrigan. Each made brief remarks.

Mrs. Obama's Food Initiative Coordinator, Sam Kass, was also present, as was Kevin Concannon, USDA's Under Secretary for Food Nutrition, and Consumer Services. A White House spokesperson said that representatives from each department in the administration were present, but released no list of attendees. Nancy-Ann DeParle, director of the White House Office of Health Reform, made closing remarks. The events were livestreamed, but audio and video had technical difficulties.

The meeting was in service to a required report from the Child Obesity Task Force, which was created at the Let's Move! campaign launch on February 9. During the week of May 10, the task force will make a report to President Obama, and the White House was seeking a buffet of advice from the attendees, who broke into four groups to have focused discussions. Below is a transcript of the First Lady's remarks, and the participant guest list, as issued by the White House (in some cases, affiliation is not noted). (Above: Mrs. Obama during her remarks; she left immediately after, and did not participate in discussion sessions with participants.)

*Photo by Obama Foodorama


Office of the First Lady
For Immediate
Release April 9, 2010


South Court Auditorium

1:40 P.M. EDT

MRS. OBAMA: Thank you, everyone. (Applause.) Thank you all so much. It’s a pleasure to be here with all of you.

Let me begin by thanking Melody for that kind introduction, that wonderful story. It’s happening in kitchens and households all over America -- kids really moving for the change. I also want to thank Melody for her work in chairing the task force. She has been instrumental, and we’ve seen such significant movement under her leadership.

I’d also like to thank several members of this administration who are providing invaluable leadership on this issue. Melody introduced them, but let me take time to also thank Secretaries Duncan and Salazar, OBM Director Peter Orszag, Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan and Nancy-Ann DeParle. Is Nancy-Ann here? She is the Director of the White House Office of Health Reform and she obviously has been incredibly instrumental on this and so many efforts in this administration.

Thank you all for your leadership. This has been an administration-wide effort and I am so proud of this team. Everyone in this administration has embraced this issue with a level of fervor and commitment. That's why we are able to be standing here today, having made so much progress in such a short period of time.

This gathering has never happened before at the White House. It’s one where we’re bringing together teachers and child advocates, doctors and nurses, business leaders, public servants, researchers and health experts to talk about one of the most serious and difficult problems facing our kids today, and that is the epidemic of childhood obesity in this country.

We’re here because we all care deeply about the health and well-being of America’s children. And we’ve gathered folks from across America and across just about every relevant field because, in the end, solving this problem is going to take every single one of us.

And that’s really at the heart of the “Let’s Move” campaign.

We launched this campaign two months ago, but the idea actually was inspired by the planting of the White House Kitchen Garden.

Last March, with the help of local students who have been so incredible, we planted the garden on the South Lawn of the White House, and it allowed us to begin a conversation about the importance not just of healthy eating -- eating right, eating the good food -- but also about getting exercise into our lives.

The kids during that whole year of planting and harvesting showed so much enthusiasm, so much excitement about that garden and about the potential of the topic that we realized there was an opportunity to do much more, because they were so open.

So we launched “Let’s Move.” The campaign is designed to raise awareness about the problem of childhood obesity and to focus on how we as a nation have to come together to solve it.

My husband signed a presidential memorandum creating the first-ever government-wide Task Force on Childhood Obesity, composed of representatives from key agencies across the government.

And since then, I have spoken to so many people. I’ve heard from so many people across this country.

I’ve met with mayors and governors and I’ve asked them to do their part to build healthier cities and states.

I’ve met with School Nutrition Association members -- the folks who decide what’s served in schools –- and I’ve asked them to do their part to offer healthier meals and snacks to our kids at school.

I’ve met with the food manufacturers and asked them to do their part to improve the quality of the food that they provide and to do a better job of marketing nutritious food to our kids.

I’ve met with kids -- met with a bunch of them the other day in my first town hall meeting, full of kids -- (laughter) -- and they were wonderful. And I asked them to do their part. I asked them nicely -- (laughter) -- but I asked them to do their part as well. What I told them is that they were the most important players in this piece because it’s up to them to make different decisions; to try to make it a little easier on their parents to try new things and to incorporate exercise.

And I’ve been meeting with parents, too, because we all need to do our parts, as well, because the fact is, is that our kids didn’t do this to themselves. They don’t decide the sugar content in soda or the advertising content of a television show. Kids don’t choose what’s served to them for lunch at school, and shouldn’t be deciding what’s served to them for dinner at home. And they don’t decide whether there’s time in the day or room in the budget to learn about healthy eating or to spend time playing outside.

We make those decisions. That’s all up to us.

And I know how hard it is. I know how hard it is as a parent when you’re bombarded by ads for junk food; when you’re hit with a barrage of conflicting stories about what’s healthy and what’s not; when you always feel like you’re failing to meet some impossible standard for working parents -- or for any parents for that matter.

We also know how hard it is for schools to provide nutritious lunches with just a few dollars to make that happen. We know the budget constraints facing local governments in these tough times. And we all know how difficult this problem is when playgrounds and ballparks are competing with video games and social networking sites; and when our children are simply surrounded by many more opportunities to eat badly and to sit around than they are to eat well and move.

But we also know this -- that over the past three decades, childhood obesity rates in America have tripled. That is a fact. Nearly one third of children in America now are overweight or obese. That's a reality. And unless we act now, things are only going to get worse. That is a fact.

“Let’s Move” recognizes this reality and recognizes that there are a few things that we can do right now that can make a big difference.

First, we have to help parents and empower consumers by encouraging companies to offer healthier options and by providing more customer-friendly labels so that people can figure out what’s healthy and what isn’t.

And there are tools and resources available right now to parents and kids at our Web site,

Second, with 31 million children getting lunch through federal lunch programs, we can do so much more to provide healthy meals and snacks where our kids spend most of their days.

And I am pleased that the Senate Agriculture Committee has made a significant contribution towards the President’s goal of investing an additional $1 billion per year to ensure that the food provided to our children in schools is nutritious and healthy, and that fewer children in this country go hungry.

Third, we can do much more to make sure that all families have access to healthy and affordable food in their own communities. 23.5 million Americans, including 6.5 million children, live in communities without a supermarket. That means far fewer healthier options are available to so many families who are going to be working to try to figure this out. They won’t have access to the resources they need to do what we’re asking them to do.

So, we’re working with the private sector to reach a very ambitious goal, and that is to completely eliminate food deserts in this country.

And finally, there is much, much more that we can do to help kids stay physically active, not just in school but outside of school as well.

And if we can make real progress in these four areas, then there’s so much more else we can do. But these four areas, as a country, we can reach our ultimate goal, and the ultimate goal for “Let’s Move” is to solve the problem of childhood obesity in a generation so that children born today grow up at a healthy weight with better notions of what is healthy, with better habits, who are incorporating exercise into their lives on a more regular basis, so there are more kids like the ones that Melody described, who know what it even means to eat healthy. That's our goal.

And to achieve this goal, we are going to need all of you. We’re going to need all of you -- your insight, your experience, your guidance. And that’s why we are so excited about this gathering here today, because you all know this issue better than just about anyone. So many of you have dedicated your lives to fighting this battle, and many of you have just -- are just thankful that there’s someone else shining the spotlight on what you have known for a long, long time.

This -- folks in this room, all of you working together, can do more than just about anyone to help us tackle this issue. What we have done is started a national conversation. We’ve started an important national conversation. But we need your help to propel that conversation into a national response.

So today is very important. The work that you do here is really meaningful, which is why you have so many heavy-hitters here, because we need your advice and your input.

And to make that happen, we’re going to have you break into smaller sessions, led by members of the task force that will focus on these four key components of “Let’s Move.” And the information that we collect here today will be essential to construct the final report that's going to come from the task force -- a report that will serve as a very important roadmap, with goals, benchmarks, measurable outcomes, that will help us collectively tackle this challenge.

So, with that, all I have to say is let’s move. (Laughter.) Let’s get this going. Thank you all so much. Thank you for your energy, your expertise. I thank our administration. I am confident, because of the stories we hear from kids, that they’re ready for us to move. They are more than ready. Once again they’re waiting for us. So let’s get this started. And thank you so much and have a productive meeting. Thanks so much. (Applause.)

END 1:55 P.M. EDT

Invited participants:

· Katie Adamson- YMCA of the USA

· Tenley Albright

· Leon Andrews- National League of Cities

· Michael Arnold - Gov. Bev Perdue (D-NC)

· Charles Basch - Teachers College Columbia University

· John Billings - Food Marketing Institute

· Nisha Botchwey - University of Virginia

· Kelly Brownell - Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, Yale University

· Charlene Burgeson - National Association of Sport and Physical Education

· Paul Caccamo - Up2Us

· Sandra Calvert - Children's Digital Media Center, Georgetown University

· Debbie Chang - Nemours

· Cynthia Chestnut - County Commissioner, Alachua County, Florida

· Kathy Christoffel - Center on Obesity Management and Prevention

· Gail Christopher - WK Kellogg Foundation

· Timothy Cipriano - New Haven Public Schools

· Lorraine Cole - YWCA

· Jerlean Daniel - National Association for the Education of Young Children

· Sarah Dash - Rep. Rosa DeLauro

· Rochelle Davis - Healthy Schools Campaign

· Stacy Dean - Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

· Sandra Delack - National Association of School Nurses

· Cari DeSantis - American Public Human Services Association

· Richard Dolesh - National Recreation & Parks Assoc

· Roxanee Dove - National Education Association

· Mario Drummonds - Northern Manhattan Perinatal Partnership

· Ginny Ehrlich - Alliance for Healthier Generation

· Debra Eschmeyer - National Farm to School Network

· Dwight Evans - PA State Rep

· Scott Faber – Grocery Manufacturers Association

· Tom Farley - NYC Dept of Health

· George Flores – The California Endowment

· Tracy Fox - Society for Nutrition Education

· Naomi Friedman - National Association of Regional Councils

· Carol Lee Israel -Salvation Army

· Tony Geraci - Baltimore Public Schools

· Matthew Gillman - Harvard School of Public Health

· Rev. Douglas A. Greenaway - National WIC Association

· Linda Grefe – Center for Sport in Society

· Jane Anne Harris – Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry

· Erin Hart - National Parent-Teacher Association

· Fred “Chip” Heath - Stanford University

· Barbara Hiden - American Beverage Association

· Kimberley Hodgson - American Planning Association

· Debbie Hohlt - Gov. Mitch Daniels (R-IN)

· Jason Hsieh - National Governors Association

· Lynn Keefe - National Eating Disorders Association

· Claire Kenamore - Billings Clinic Pediatrics

· Ikram Khan

· David Kirchhoff - Weight Watchers

· Eileen Kirlin - SEIU

· Jenelle Krishnamoorthy -

· Dale Kunkel - Dept. of Communication, University of Arizona

· Terri Lakowski - Alliance in Support of Athletics Equity

· Jose Lastra - Esperanza

· Madeline Lawson - Institute for the Advancement of Minority Multicultural Medicine

· Martin LeBlanc - Sierra Club

· Penny Lee - Campaign to End Childhood Obesity

· Elana Leventhal – Rep. Pallone

· Becky Levin - AFSCME

· Pilar Lorenzana-Campo - Public Health Law & Policy

· Donald Mathis – National Community Action Partnerships

· Kevin McCartney - Boys and Girls Clubs of America

· John Meigs - American Association of Family Physicians

· Patrice Miller - Sesame Workshop

· Suzen Moeller - American Medical Association

· Meghan Mohoney - Northeastern Center for Sport & Society

· Janet McLaughlin - Share Our Strength

· Eric Olsen - Mars Corp.

· R. Jeff Olson - Association of State Nutrition Network Administrators

· Judith Palfrey - American Academy of Pediatrics

· Lynn Parker - Institute of Medicine

· Margo Pedroso - Safe Routes to Schools National Partnership

· Stephanie Ramirez - National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials

· Thomas Robinson - Stanford Prevention Research Center

· Nancy Romer - Hunter College

· Ahniwake Rose - National Congress of American Indians

· Loel Salomon - Kaiser Permanente

· Marc Schindler - District of Columbia Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services

· Judy Schoenberg - Girl Scouts of America

· Kenderick Scorza - Alliance for a Healthier Generation Youth Advisory Board

· Gabrielle Serra - Rep. Miller (Ed/Labor)

· Lisa Shelton - Rep. Peterson (Ag)

· John Smith - T4America

· Virginia Stallings - Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania

· Sheri Steisel - NCSL

· Tom Stenzel - United Fresh Produce

· Brandon Stevens - Oneida Nation

· Crystal Swann - US Conference of Mayors

· Dawn Sweeney - National Restaurant Association

· Mildred Thompson - PolicyLink

· Joseph Thompson - RWJF Center to Prevent Childhood Obesity

· Elizabeth Walker - National Association of State Boards of Education

· Brian Wansink - Cornell University

· Mary Watson - Action for Healthy Kids

· Erika Watson - Revolution Foods

· Jim Weill - Food Research and Action Center

· Mary Wittenberg - New York Roadrunners

· Margo Wootan - Center for Science in the Public Interest

· Toni Yancey - UCLA