Reconsidering Michelle Obama

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Perhaps I’ve been too hard on Michelle Obama.

I criticized her in an earlier post for making childhood obesity her cause instead of something more “earth-shattering.” But today I ran across some of her recent comments about the issue that show that she realizes there’s more to the problem than our children’s inactivity. (Her campaign is called “Let’s Move.”) This is from an opinion essay on CNN.com by Roland Martin:

“The crisis that we’re facing around childhood obesity hits everything,” Obama said. “It’s about education, what our kids are learning about nutrition in the schools, the quality of the food in the schools. It’s about our neighborhood development. How are neighborhoods designed?

“Are our kids — do they have access to safe places to play? Are we structuring communities in a way that facilitates healthy living? Are there accessible and affordable healthy foods in our communities? And it’s about economic opportunity as well, because if folks can’t afford to put food on the table, then they’re eating what they can.

“So this is one of those issues that requires us to talk about a little bit of everything. And it makes us look at ourselves a little more closely and it makes us look at the broader society.” [Italics mine.]

On the “Let’s Move” campaign’s website, there are sections aimed at elected officials and community leaders about how to make healthy food affordable and accessible in areas that are predominantly low-income and underserved by food markets. Granted, the website doesn’t promote this aspect of the problem as much as it does the importance of healthy eating and physical activity, but at least it’s mentioned. For example:

Food insecurity and hunger among children is widespread.  A recent USDA report showed that in 2008, an estimated 49 million people, including 17 million children, lived in households that experienced hunger multiple times throughout the year.

I said in my post that I’d rather see a campaign that gets food to hungry children than one that takes it away from overfed ones. But there’s no reason why you can’t do both.

Visit Share Our Strength for more about childhood hunger.

Go to this USDA Food Environment Atlas to learn more about food accessibility where you live.

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Ellen Keim

Ellen is a freelance writer, essayist and copy editor, living with three cats and a husband in Columbus, OH.

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