More on the Obama “Let’s Move!” Legacy

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Childhood Obesity News has been looking back over one of the features of the Obama administration, the First Lady’s “Let’s Move!” program which was designed to alleviate childhood obesity.

The Partnership for a Healthier America made an alliance with businesses that some critics viewed as suspicious. Creating this tie did not seem to help very much when it came to the sticky matter of trying to convince food manufacturers to cut back on advertising that blatantly targeted children. The industry insisted that the link between obesity and the methods used to advertise cereals, snacks and junk food was imaginary, with no science behind it.

Finally, after a couple of years of effort, four government agencies cobbled together the Interagency Working Group on Food Marketed to Children. The basic idea was to bring some control to the peddling of salty, fatty, and sugary foodstuffs to humans under 18, and the consensus was that Big Food should be allotted five years to begin exhibiting some improvement in this area. Even the notion of adopting minimal voluntary standards struck the industry as unreasonably demanding and hazardous, because of its fear that any self-imposed boundaries would then be enforced by legislation.

In 2012, the Department of Agriculture updated its school lunch guidelines for the first time in 15 years. Salt, fat and sugar were discouraged; fruits, vegetables and whole grains were encouraged. Portion sizes were adjusted to reflect appropriate caloric intake.

In the fall of 2013, Michelle Obama introduced the “Drink Up” initiative, whose purpose was to encourage children to drink water, rather than soda or other calorie-intensive beverages. Amazingly, this seemingly innocuous and really quite un-extraordinary proposal drew fire from several directions.

The First Lady was criticized for recommending an extra glass of water, rather than an extra bottle of water. How are beverage companies supposed to make any money if kids are drinking tap water? But then the Center for Science in the Public Interest was also upset, because the message to drink tap water was not sufficiently explicit, so the FLOTUS was suspected of trying to help bottled water companies make money.

Another faction complained that the water recommendation had no science to back it up, and other grouches maintained that recommending water would somehow enable the beverage cartel to sell more soda.

Year 2014 began with the Partnership for a Healthier America’s Third Childhood Obesity Summit. Meanwhile, kids all over the country were posting pictures of their healthful school lunches on social media platforms. Granted, some items didn’t look very appetizing, but this is the consequence we reap for teaching kids to eat with their eyes. It’s the same mental disorder that causes massive amounts of food to be wasted because it doesn’t appear supermarket-perfect.

Unfortunately, teenage Americans were showing up in the statistics as heavier than ever before, which was also blamed on the cleaned-up school lunch program. The theory was that horrible, unappetizing lunches drove kids to buy more junk from vending machines and convenience stores, and the occasional story emerged about some school where a young entrepreneur fattened up his college fund by selling fattening black-market treats to classmates.

By autumn of that year, reports were rolling in about the damage being done to school athletic programs and other “frills” which had previously been paid for by students selling candy, pizza or cookies to raise funds. For a typical news story, reporter Dave Tobin mined the heart-rending scenario in which special-needs students could no longer make money for their class trip:

Much of their class time is devoted to learning life skills, including baking. In years past they sold brownies they baked outside the lunchroom. Last year they raised nearly $300 and used it to defray the cost of their trip to Seabreeze Amusement Park, in Rochester. Now, since they can’t sell cookies and brownies, they make smaller batches, which they eat themselves…

So there was a double whammy. The developmentally disabled children were prevented from fundraising for their extracurricular activity. Not only that, but they were also forced to eat the products of cooking class themselves — growing fatter off their brownies — and it was all Michelle Obama’s fault for being such a busybody.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Why Activists Shouldn’t Be Hosing The First Lady’s ‘Drink Up’ Campaign,” Forbes.com, 09/25/13
Source: “Kids Fatter After Two Years of ‘Let’s Move’,” PatriotPost.us, 10/14/14
Source: “New ban on snacks in NY schools spoiling student fundraising efforts,” Syracuse.com, 11/13/14
Photo credit: USDAgov via Visual hunt/CC BY

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