Childhood Obesity (Part 3)
In Part 1 (click HERE if you missed it) in our post on obesity, we discussed some of the causes of childhood obesity and in Part 2 (click HERE if you missed it) we discussed some of the problems that arise from a lifetime of obesity and today we’ll discuss some of the things the US government has done to help right the ship.
First ladies often have side projects they are passionate about. Remember Nancy Reagan’s Just Say No campaign against drugs or Barbara Bush’s passion for literacy? Former first lady Michelle Obama’s pet project was to try and stop childhood obesity from growing. She started a foundation called LetsMove! to help raise awareness and affect change. This foundation’s main purposes are to provide healthier foods in schools, and grocery stores while simultaneously working to make the healthier food options cheaper so a wider range of people can buy them, and lastly to encourage kids to live more active lives (1). The foundation has made a huge impact so far in its short lifespan. LetsMove! has partnered with multiple professional athletes to help relay the message to younger people, they have gotten Walmart to change the food they sell in their stores by providing healthier options, and they have a website with many resources to help out the struggling parents and kids to find easier ways to make their lives healthier (2).
Despite all of this, there are naysayers. A group called the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) said the former administration was not being as strong as they need to be on the subject by saying they took the “non controversial” route (3). Also, Senator Tom Harkin even said the White House had “wobbly knees” (4). According to the PCRM, Mrs. Obama is not targeting the nutritional side of weight gain nearly as much as she is attacking the exercise portion. They make claims like kids should not be allowed to still drink milk and eat hot dogs in school. They even urged the former President, Barack Obama, to stop eating junk food in public by creating an online petition. PCRM believes that Mrs. Obama’s attempt at focusing on exercise rather than nutrition to fight weight gain is a huge mistake (5). Another pessimist of the LetsMove! campaign is the Laguna Beach Unified School District in Southern California. Laguna Beach planned to revise its lunch menus due to the lack of appreciation by the students. Students were not eating the new healthy food to the expectation of the school district, which led to the district having to throw away a lot of the food that was not eaten. Laguna Beach said that they cannot afford to be wasting money on food that the kids do not want to eat (6). One school district out of Kentucky even had students that said the new food “tasted like vomit”. Many people say that the LetsMove! message is good but it does not need to change so much so soon. David H. Freedman, has written many articles about obesity for The Atlantic, said, "We need to be a little smarter about it, and lower the bar, and offer people more support so they could make smaller, more gradual steps." (7)
Overall, the LetsMove! crusade is doing exactly what it should by bringing awareness which starts the conversation and leads to change. Like the old saying goes “you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink.” With time and continuous effort, kids across America will hopefully buy into the new system and start living healthier lives but parents need to do their part as well. Don’t expect little Johnnie or Janie to eat their veggies if they don’t see mom and dad eating them! As long as the majority of schools see tangible benefits to the new method of operations then we are moving in the right direction.
We need to keep reminding ourselves about the big picture. It is not about making the kids like vegetables and fruits, it is about making sure they live long, healthy lives. These government initiatives are trying to lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and many other illnesses that are prevalent with people who are overweight. We cannot expect to change the health problems of the future if we do not start today. We need to stay the course.
(1)-LetsMove!, About LetsMove!, 2017, n.p.
(2)-Obama White House, Remarks of First Lady Michelle Obama Let’s Move! Launch Anniversary Speech (3)-to Parents, February 9, 2011, n.p.
(4)-The Hill, Health group slams Michelle Obama's 'Let's Move' anti-obesity campaign, July 26, 2012 n.p.
(7)-CBSNews, Michelle Obama-touted federal healthy lunch program leaves bad taste in some school districts' mouths, August 30, 2013, n.p.