Politics

Michelle Obama gives Americans 70 ways to cut down on child obsesity, including asking mothers to conceive at a healthy weight

Michelle Obama wants to turn your kids’ school cafeteria into fat camp. To be fair, she’s starting at home, bringing yoga to the annual White House Easter Egg Roll, and an organic kitchen garden to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (turns out there wasn’t that much lead in the South Lawn soil).

Somewhat surprisingly, given the fragility of young girls’ egos, the first lady has often recounted an anecdote about daughters Sasha and Malia to explain her interest in childhood obesity: The family pediatrician in Chicago “kind of tapped me on the shoulder … And he told me, you know, you may want to watch it.” Barack Obama told Parents magazine in 2008: “A couple of years ago — you’d never know it by looking at her now — Malia was getting a little chubby.”

So on Tuesday, Mrs. Obama laid out a 70-point plan to make America’s children thinner. Conceiving at a healthy weight, promoting breastfeeding among mothers and analyzing the effect of placing taxes on unhealthy foods are part of her 70-point plan to fight child obesity.

The first lady, along with cabinet secretaries and department heads at the White House, announced 70 specific suggestions Tuesday that she says will cut down on the growing trend of heavy youngsters.

“We just need everyone to do their part, and it’s going to take everyone,” Obama said of the Childhood Obesity Task Force action plan. “No one gets off the hook on this one — from governments to schools, corporations to nonprofits, all the way down to families sitting around their dinner table.”

Of the recommendations in the report, the first lady says that many can be implemented right away. In addition to eating more vegetables and engaging in more physical activity, the report suggests:

  • Stressing the importance of women conceiving at a healthy weight and promoting breastfeeding, in order to reduce the chances of obesity from effects from early childhood
  • Asking media and entertainment companies to limit popular characters from supporting unhealthy foods in advertisements
  • Improving federally-supported school lunches and breakfasts by having schools upgrade their cafeteria equipment and swap out deep fryers for salad bars.
  • Analyzing the effect of state and local sales taxes on less healthy, energy-dense foods like soft drinks, candy, snack foods and fast foods

According to the White House, President Obama established the Task Force on Childhood Obesity to “develop and implement an interagency plan that details a coordinated strategy, identifies key benchmarks and outlines an action plan to end the problem of childhood obesity within a generation.”

The first lady did not take questions at the press conference in the Eisenhower Executive Office building, though Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Sean Donovan and Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz did.

Leibowitz said “more needs to be done,” but noted that, “a regulatory approach is certainly not where we want to start.”

When a reporter said, “There won’t be any teeth to it if there isn’t any regulatory approach,” Leibowitz responded that the plan is more about encouraging “self-regulation” through using the first lady and cabinet secretaries’ bully pulpit.

Others in attendance included Domestic Policy Council Director Melody Barnes, Office of Health Reform Director Nancy-Ann DeParle and SBA Administrator Karen Mills.

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