Thursday, January 23, 2014

Pile On The Veggies: Michelle Obama Announces Three-Year Pledge From Subway For Let's Move!

The First Lady, Olympian Michael Phelps, & DC kids lunch at Subway
America's largest sandwich chain supports First Lady's call for healthier marketing to children with $41 million commitment to promote produce and healthy kids' menu...
UPDATE: Backlash from customers
Washington, DC - With the fourth anniversary of her child obesity initiative just weeks away, First Lady Michelle Obama on Thursday visited a Subway shop located blocks from the White House to announce the national sandwich chain's pledge to support Let's Move! with a three-year marketing commitment designed to get kids to eat more fruits and vegetables.  

Mrs. Obama said she is very "excited" that the privately held company, with more than 25,000 retail outlets in the US, will create its largest targeted marketing effort to date urging kids to "pile on the veggies," the catch-phrase for the effort that launches on Feb. 1.

Worth some $41 million in "media value," the project will emphasize the "fun factor" of produce with a series of kid-focused campaigns across platforms, including digital and social media and television, and a crusade called "Playtime: Powered by Veggies."  

In stores, all advertising and merchandise aimed at children will spotlight healthier food choices.  Subway has plenty of merchandise: Kids' meals currently come with a reusable lunch bag featuring Disney's wildly popular movie Frozen.  

The effort includes a promise to offer kids' menu items that are "informed by federal standards for the national school lunch program," the White House said.  Since 2007, Subway has offered a healthy children's menu featuring the Fresh Fit for Kids combo, which offers four smaller, trans-fat free sandwiches with between 150-200 calories each.  These are accompanied by packaged apple slices, and water or low-fat milk as the "default" beverage. 

"I’m excited about these initiatives not just as a First Lady, but also as a mom," Mrs. Obama said.  "Subway's kids' menu makes life easier for parents, because they know that no matter what their kids order, it’s going to be a healthy choice."  

She added that Subway offers a "terrific example of what a kids' menu should look like."
 
The company said it will create training materials so employees, known as "Sandwich Artists," will know how best to encourage kids to select apples and vegetables for their sandwiches.  Every store in the country will also post a sign at eye-level for children, reading "Playtime Powered by Veggies" with the logo for Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) the independent foundation that orchestrates and oversees all private-sector pledges for Let's Move!, including the Subway deal.  Mrs. Obama serves as honorary chair for PHA.

The First Lady is thrilled that the pledge isn't just lip service: 

"Subway isn't just offering healthy choices --this is the thing I like--they're putting real money behind marketing these choices to kids," Mrs. Obama said. 

Mrs. Obama's aides say the commitment is the second to emerge as a response to her first-ever White House Convening on Food Marketing to Children, held last September.  Subway had representatives at the day-long huddle, where Mrs. Obama called on food and beverage and media and entertainment executives to dedicate more of their advertising dollars to actively promoting healthier foods to children.  

The event included sessions with Let's Move! Executive Director Sam Kass and other Administration officials to brainstorm creative ways to get the job done.  Mrs. Obama's Drink Up! hydration campaign was launched by Let's Move! and PHA in part to be an example of what positive marketing for health should look like, Kass has said.

Mrs. Obama saluted Subway for taking on the challenge, and for "actually working to get kids excited about eating their vegetables."  She also called on parents to support the project.

"I asked companies to stop targeting kids with unhealthy products," Mrs. Obama said.  "Now as parents and consumers--we actually have to buy their products. We need to vote with our wallets. That’s how we get even more fresh food in our communities."

Subway is the first in the "quick service" restaurant category to make a multi-year commitment to Let's Move!, which since 2010 has entered partnerships with more than 65 private-sector entities that include some of America's most beloved brands, ranging from Olive Garden to Disney to Nike to Coca-Cola.  

Subway is already widely regarded as an industry leader in offering healthier options, though customers who are not careful can walk away with calorie-bomb sandwiches.   It has offered the Fresh Fit for Kids combo since 2007, after starting a healthier options push in 2000, when it began using Jared Fogle as a spokesman.  Now the company's icon, Fogle dropped 245 pounds eating Subway sandwiches.  

Fogle joined Mrs. Obama at the event; he will star in the first commercials promoting the new project, along with The Muppets.  

"With this partnership with PHA, we will now reach millions of kids as part of a healthier eating education campaign, making it our largest outreach campaign to date," said  Suzanne Greco, Subway's vice president of R&D and Operations.

The Muppets are also the anchors for the first commitment announced following Mrs. Obama's Convening event.  Last October, Sesame Workshop, the non-profit that holds the licenses to the popular characters, said it will offer free use of its fuzzy friends for two years to members of the Produce Marketing Association, for campaigns to promote fruits and vegetables to children.

Olympic swimming great Michael Phelps, Olympic gymnastics champion Nastia Liukin, and New York Giants star Justin Tuck, some of Subway's "Famous Fans" spokespeople, who appear in ads for the chain, also joined Mrs. Obama at the event.  Phelps introduced the First Lady.

"Put things into your body that help you perform at your best," Phelps told the crowd gathered in the shop, who included parents and kids from DC's Bancroft and Harriet Tubman Elementary Schools, who have joined Mrs. Obama for events in her Kitchen Garden.  The First Lady nodded as the winningest Olympian in history spoke.

Olympic gymnast Nastia Liukin makes Mrs. Obama's sandwich
After the announcement, Mrs. Obama sat down with Phelps and some of the children for an early lunch.  

Liukin and Tuck jumped behind the counter and took on the duties of Sandwich Artists.  Wearing plastic food prep gloves, Liukin crafted an elaborate, veggie-laden sandwich for Mrs. Obama, as the First Lady pointed out her vegetable choices.  

Mrs. Obama tucked into a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread that had tomatoes, spinach, pickles and pepperoncini piled on, with oil and vinegar.  She skipped the cheese.

The pledge "builds on the brand’s already strong track record of offering healthier choices to kids, for which it has been lauded by families and health advocates alike," said James R. Gavin, III, MD, PhD, Board Chair for Partnership for a Healthier America.

"The new and significant investment it is making today will not only help make fruits and vegetables fun for kids, it will also offer busy moms and dads easy, healthy choices for their families when they're on the go."

Mrs. Obama with Phelps and the kids
Mrs. Obama will be announcing more new commitments in the weeks ahead; she will mark the fourth anniversary of Let's Move! on February 9th.

This sign will appear in all US Subway stores
*The transcript of the First Lady's remarks. The White House press release.

*CLICK HERE for links to all Let's Move! posts.

*The Subway store Mrs. Obama visited is located at 1712 L Street NW in Washington, DC. 

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*Top photo via White House; second by Nastia Liukin; third by Jared Fogle