Let's Move! How Fast Is It Moving Forward?
From menu changes to bike-friendly cities, The Root measures the outcomes of Michelle Obama's campaign.
"We regard their commitment to dedicate space, for the first time, to an industry-wide front-of-pack label as a significant first step and look forward to future improvement," said the diplomatic but terse White House statement. "The FDA plans to monitor this initiative closely and will work with experts in the field to evaluate whether the new label is meeting the needs of American consumers and pursue improvements as needed."
Coming to a City Near You?
Environmental factors, such as a lack of parks or other safe recreational facilities where kids can be active, can contribute to childhood obesity. That's why Let's Move! is also working with mayors and local leaders. Nearly 500 communities across America have signed up for the Let's Move Cities and Towns program -- a challenge to mayors and elected officials to adopt long-term, sustainable efforts to fight childhood obesity at the community level.
Kansas City, Mo., for example, has adopted new urban gardening programs and policies that encourage children to walk to school, and has undertaken planning efforts to make the city more bicycle-friendly. Meanwhile, Cambridge, Mass., launched a grant program to fund projects that promote healthy eating and physical activity among the city's youths.
"In addition to working with mayors and county officials, Let's Move! has been able to raise awareness of the issue of childhood obesity in Indian country," Dwayne Proctor, senior program officer at the health-oriented Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, told The Root of the campaign's reach. "It has taken a multifaceted approach, where different groups and sectors from all over the country are more aware of the complexities of this issue."
What Lies Ahead
While Mrs. Obama is optimistic about building on the initiative's progress (and waiting for the numerous food companies to fulfill their five- and 10-year commitments), health and nutrition advocates are quizzical about the campaign's apparent standstill when it comes to pursuing new battles around food. For example, Let's Move! has not used its platform to advocate for a plan developed by a federal interagency committee that recommends voluntary standards for food marketed to children -- a plan that Congress has delayed for a year. The campaign has likewise kept silent on the FDA's forthcoming final version of rules requiring chain restaurants and other businesses to post calorie counts on menus and signs.
It's a caution that some observers attribute to pushback from food and beverage companies, which the campaign denies. In a recent Reuters special report, Sam Kass, White House associate chef and senior policy adviser on food initiatives, had a sunny outlook on the future of the program: "We are incredibly proud of the commitments that many food companies have made and are continuing to work with others to advocate for even more change to make sure our children are getting the healthy, nutritious food they need."
Cynthia Gordy is The Root's senior political correspondent.