Happy Birthday, Let's Move: A Look Back at the First Lady's Program

Published on Fri Feb 11 18:56:00 UTC 2011
Marion Nestle

Mrs. Obama's Let's Move campaign is one year old and people are asking me whether it has accomplished anything. I think it has. 



    • It has brought childhood obesity to public attention, as never before.

    • The choice of action areas—fixing school food and getting supermarkets into inner city food deserts—makes excellent sense. Both are doable and both can make a real difference to kids and their families.

    • Encouraging the makers of packaged foods to reduce salt and sugar and to stop blatant marketing to kids brings attention to their worst practices.

    • And now, according to The New York Times, Mrs. Obama is talking to restaurant companies about serving healthier foods, especially to kids.

This last one warms my heart. Six or seven years ago, I was invited to speak to a small group of owners of restaurant chains, Applebee's, Darden's, and the like. I went with a three-point agenda:

    • Make healthy kids' meals the default.

    • Give a price break to encourage people to order smaller portions (charge 70 percent for a 50 percent portion, for example).

    • And stop funding the Center for Consumer Freedom (an aggressive PR firm that does the dirty work for restaurant and other industries).

The response? Ballistic. "What are you trying to do, put us out of business?"

Well, times have changed. Some of those chains are actually doing some of these things. And now the First Lady is urging them to do the first two points on my agenda, at least.

Mrs. Obama has no legislated power. She only has the power of leadership and persuasion. I'm glad she's using it to promote action on childhood obesity, challenging as that is.

Happy birthday!

This post also appears on foodpolitics.com.

This article originally appeared on The Atlantic's Food Channel.

Marion Nestle is professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University, and the author of Food Politics, Safe Food, What to Eat, and Pet Food Politics.

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