Monday, May 23, 2011

First Lady Michelle Obama Launches "Let's Move Museums And Gardens"

New initiative will use museums, libraries, botanic gardens, historic sites, and zoos to promote healthy eating & fitness with interactive exhibits and changes in food service...
America's museums and historic sites are usually the places where food is least welcome, for fear that it will ruin the art and artifacts. Running and jumping is generally discouraged in these places, too. But that's all going to change, thanks to First Lady Michelle Obama. The White House today announced Let’s Move Museums & Gardens, a new project for Mrs. Obama's childhood obesity campaign that places food and physical movement front and center in the places that attract millions of families annually.

The national initiative, spearheaded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), will encourage participating museums, zoos, libraries, historic sites, community and botanic gardens and other institutions to create interactive exhibits and programs that encourage kids and families to both eat healthier foods and increase their physical activity, the two-pronged approach to combating obesity that Let's Move! focuses on. The organizations will also be encouraged to offer healthier food choices--and nutrition education--in their on-site restaurants and cafeterias.

Project leaders hope to sign up 2,000 organizations in the first year, and reach 200 million visitors. The First Lady announced the new campaign by video to attendees of the Association of Children’s Museums and American Association of Museums Annual Meetings, in Houston, Texas.

"Everyday, in museums, public gardens, zoos, and so many other places, you expose our children to new ideas and inspire them to stretch their imaginations," Mrs. Obama said. "You teach them new skills and new ways of thinking. And you instill a love of learning that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. And that’s why I’m so excited to work with you on an issue that is so critical to their health and well-being."

Organizers are suggesting that institutions create projects that can have a profound impact on child health and the obesogenic culture that American kids are growing up in.

The suggestions include cultivating organic food/vegetable gardens; providing assistance for school and community gardens and offering related programs; creating exhibits and/or hosting forums or discussions for the community considering the local impact of built environment policies and regulations on human health; building safe and accessible parks and playgrounds on museum/garden grounds and off-site; and creating exhibits, web experiences or Apps that utilize technology to encourage physical activity in ways that are fun and interactive. CLICK HERE for examples of museum programs that combat obesity and promote fitness.

There are an estimated 17,500 museums in the U.S. which collectively host at least 850 million visits each year, according to the IMLS.

"Museums and gardens are well positioned to make a difference. Many of them have core missions that focus on creating healthy environments for children and their families," said Susan Hildreth, director of IMLS, in a press release. "They are trusted institutions with deep community connections, knowledgeable staff and the ability to provide immersive interactive experiences that can help children, parents and caregivers to make healthy changes in their lives."

CLICK HERE to become a participating institution.

Participants in the development of the project included a collaboration among the American Association of Museums, the Association of Children’s Museums, and the American Public Gardens Association, and has now been broadened to include, the Association of African American Museums, the Association of Art Museum Directors, Association of Science-Technology Centers, American Association for State and Local History, Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and the Center for the Future of Museums.

*Getty photo