First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! campaign is multi-pronged and complicated, designed to combat childhood obesity from as many angles as possible. Observers and critics seem to misunderstand the scope and focus areas of the campaign, so below is Let's Move! 101, a quick guide with links to relevant posts that explain the five "pillars" of action, and commitments from the private sector and other partners.
There are more than 3,000 posts on this blog about Let's Move!, so what follows is a broad overview. The campaign now includes thousands of partners in the public and private sector, impacting literally millions of people, with a wide ranging series of commitments from partners such as Hyatt Hotels and Darden Restaurants, Inc. to change their menus, and the Y.W.C.A to create a healthy environment in child care centers across the US. The largest corporate commitment is from Walmart, and includes a whole series of pledges, from building markets in food deserts to reformulating products.
Let's Move! 101Mrs. Obama formally launched Let's Move! in Febuary of 2010. All sub-components and initiatives that have since been launched must fulfill recommendations from the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity, the first of its kind created by any presidential Administration. Chaired by Domestic Policy Advisor Melody Barnes, the Task Force released a 120-page Report in May of 2010. Download the Full Childhood Obesity Task Force Report. [PDF]
The overall goal of the campaign is GENERATIONAL. It is designed so that children being born today will grow up in an environment that is profoundly different from the current obesogenic culture that exists in America. The goals are VERY long term, with the ultimate goal being to drop the current obesity rate of about 17% in children to 5% by the year 2030. Right now, "one in three children is overweight or obese," according to the White House.
Let's Move! coordinates the work of more than twelve federal agencies to combat childhood obesity, including the (seemingly unlikely) Departments of the Interior and the Treasury. Interior runs Let's Move Indian Country and Let's Move Outdoors, which encourages the use of federal space for fitness activities. Treasury is running the Healthy Food Financing Initiative, which offers grants to community agencies to work on food desert projects. Executive Director of the campaign is Dr. Judy Palfrey (her bio). UPDATE, Feb 7, 2012: Palfrey resigned after less than four months in her post.
But Let's Move! is not only a federal initiative; in fact it has only one legislative component, the Helalthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act 2010. The campaign relies on partnerships with everyone from individuals and families, to schools, community and faith groups, non-profits, the medical community, academics, cities and towns, states, as well as corporate partners, from grocers to professional sports associations. The campaign is supported by Partnership for a Healthier America, a non-profit foundation set up to create and monitor the partnerships with corporate entities. Dr. James Gavin III is chairman; Mrs. Obama is honorary chair. PHA's website.
Key reading: The First Lady addressing the National Restaurant Association, and the First Lady addressing the Grocery Manufacturers Association. The First Lady's speech for the one-year anniversary of the campaign is here.
The Five Pillars
"We built this initiative around four main pillars," Mrs. Obama explained in a 2010 speech. "We’re moving to make our schools healthier. We’re moving to increase the amount of physical activity that our kids get at school and at home. We’re moving to eliminate food deserts so that every American can have easy and affordable access to fresh, healthy foods right where they live. And we’re moving to give parents the information they need to make healthy decisions for their families."
In 2011, a fifth pillar was added: A focus on very early childhood, with interventions designed for children from birth to pre-school. The pillars:
1. Improving Access to Healthy, Affordable Food: The First Lady has a goal of eliminating all US Food deserts by 2017. She has gotten major corporate support for this, with grocers, including Walmart, pledging to build markets in both urban and rural food deserts. Improving access is not limited to building markets: The campaign also encourages school and community gardens, food trucks, farmers markets, and anything else that improves food access and affordability. Some of the corporate partners--Walgreens and Walmart--have announced that they will be sponsoring farmers markets, as well as making an effort to purchase from local vendors, in an effort to reduce the cost of fruit and vegetables.
The Walmart Foundation in September donated $1 million to Will Allen's Growing Power as part of this push; he'll be using the money to set up more than 15 community agriculture projects. Mrs. Obama toured Growing Power's Chicago headquarters in October, during the first-ever Let's Move! Food Desert Summit.
The First Lady's Kitchen Garden on the South Lawn is a model education project for nutrition education as well as food access.
2. Empowering Parents and Caregivers: Parents and caregivers need the right information in order to make informed choices, and this component encourages better labeling, including front-of-pack nutrition information labels, as well as other initiatives, such as posting calorie counts on menu boards in chain restaurants, which was a component of the Affordable Care Act.
The MyPlate campaign, launched this year, is part of this pillar, and is designed to help families follow the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, using the easy-to-understand graphic icon created by USDA. A Spanish language version, MiPlato, was also launched this year. The White House has released healthy recipes, and the chefs have given many cooking demos to educate the public about healthy cooking. Check the sidebar of this blog for recipes, including specific MyPlate recipes. The Letsmove.gov website and USDA's various nutrition websites offer information for parents. The MyPlate website.
How foods are marketed to children is also part of this pillar, and it has been the subject of battle over the last year. This post explains. The food industry this year proposed its own guidelines for advertising to children, explained in this post.
3. Providing Healthy Foods In Schools: Mrs. Obama championed the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act, which was signed into law by President Obama in 2010. It affords major nutrition changes in school cafeterias, and for the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs. The HealthierUS Schools Challenge, a program run by USDA, is the centerpiece of this pillar, and enrolling schools in this has been key. Schools are rewarded for offering a combination of healthy food, nutrition education, and fitness opportunities to students. More than 1,250 schools met the Challenge over the last year, and more will qualify in the year ahead. The HUSC website.
USDA is expected to unveil its new nutrition standards for school meals in January of 2012; the proposed standards are here, but have been the subject of much conflict in the last year. UPDATE, Jan. 25, 2012: The final school lunch rule from USDA.
Chefs Move to Schools, which marries professional chefs with local schools, is part of this pillar. There are more than 3,700 chefs signed on right now, according to Senior Policy Advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives Sam Kass. USDA runs this component: Click here for the website.
Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools, a component launched in 2010, is a part of this pillar. It has a goal of getting 6,000 child-sized salad bars into schools by 2013.
4. Increasing Physical Activity: The First Lady announced last week that in the year ahead, the campaign will have a renewed focus on fitness initiatives. But the campaign has included fitness initiatives from the beginning: Mrs. Obama has hula hooped, danced, played basketball, tennis, soccer, and touch football in an effort to encourage all Americans to get moving. She's gotten support from the NFL, the NBA, Major League Baseball, the US Tennis Association, US Soccer, and many other pro sports organizations, which have offered community fitness programs and other initiatives to hundreds of thousands of children.
A key part of the fitness component is the PALA Challenge, the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award, which encourages children to exercise five days a week for six weeks for an hour, with adults doing a half hour. 1.7 million people completed the PALA Challenge during the last year, a major goal of the campaign. The PALA+ challenge was just launched: it includes nutrition goals with the fitness goals. The PALA website.
Schools are being encouraged to offer fitness opportunities to students: That's part of the HealthierUS School Challenge.
5. Creating A Healthy Start For Children. Mrs. Obama this year launched Let's Move Childcare, a component of the campaign designed to ensure that the youngest Americans have the best possible start in life. It encourages best practices at home and in childcare settings, as well as breastfeeding. Major childcare centers have signed on to join the initiative. Kaiser Permanent announced last week that it will make 29 hospitals "Baby Friendly," and encourage breastfeeding. The Let's Move Childcare website.
*Photo by Eddie Gehman Kohan/Obama Foodorama; the First Lady is speaking at the launch of the partnership with Walmart at an event in Washington, DC.