At the same time that the administration hinted at the possibility of new regulations, it also sought out partnerships with the food industry in what might be viewed as a carrot-and-stick approach. Jeff Stier, a senior fellow at the conservative National Center for Public Policy Research, initially thought the first lady had staked out a middle position on food policy, but now says the campaign has become rudderless and is veering toward the nanny state. Food companies like to talk about exercise because it shifts the emphasis from their products and reinforces the industrys insistence that any food can have a place in a healthy diet. By keeping her critiques of the health crisis focused on helping children and engaging the food industry and public health advocates, Obama quickly found that the middle ground is narrow on an issue as fundamental to American life as eating. Obamas challenge was steep: Overall childhood obesity rates tripled in the past three decades, climbing from about 5% in 1974 to nearly 17% by 2008, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Because of budget cuts, we're losing recess, we're losing gym classes," she said. But the groundwork was laid for the relationship in the years before Obama took on childhood obesity. This is as controversial as you can get. The industry saw the guidelines as a precursor to regulation. Nutrition experts argued they were anything but healthy. Nearly 17% of children between the ages of 2 and 19 were obese in 2012, according to a 2014 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published in JAMA, a rate that has remained relatively unchanged over the past decade. An absolute knockout.. Its opposition to Indianas religious freedom law, voiced directly by its chief executive to the states governor, helped force revisions to the act. Wal-Mart came to the White House with a set of goals, including opening stores in rural areas and city neighborhoods where there were no large grocers and adding a great for you label that would make it easy for customers to spot which of the companys store-branded products were most nutritious. Where I think they went wrong is that they ended up doing more harm than good by convincing Americans that the causes of it were things that were completely fictional., Barnard felt the campaign has focused too much of its attention toward reducing sugar intake and not enough to limiting consumption of cheese, meat and grains. Putting Walmarts in food deserts, critics worried, could harm the infrastructure of urban farms, food co-ops and farmers markets that have taken root in such places in recent years. This morning, President Obama signed a presidential memorandum to create the first-ever federal task force to provide "optimal coordination" between private sector companies, not-for-profits, agencies within the government and other organizations to address the problem of childhood obesity. The assumption is that this industry is somehow different than others, and that because people must eat, the industry is here to stay, and like it or not, working with them is the only solution, Brownell wrote. Observers put the blame less on a lack of goodwill than on the political realities of taking on the multibillion-dollar food industry, which has lots of lobbying money and friends in Congress and no qualms about fanning the fears of government overreach when it perceives a threat to its interests. First lady on "very ambitious" plan to end childhood obesity in a generation. The Partnership for a Healthier America will continue to operate when President Obama is no longer in office. Food and media companies also pleaded their case at the White House: logs examined by Reuters showed that top executives from Nestl, Kellogg, General Mills and the media companies Walt Disney, Time Warner and Viacom (which owns Nickelodeon) visited the White House together in July 2011. First lady Michelle Obama visits a school as part of the White House's Let's Move! But low-sodium varieties of some products, such as soup, have been failures at the cash register and scrapped. Eddie Gehman Kohan, founding editor of Obama Foodorama, a blog that has chronicled every food-related facet of the administration, called it a fundamental shift. Nestle, Simon and others registered dismay at what they saw as a departure from the politically charged arena of food. White House officials, however, maintain that they supported the effort and blamed Congress for the lack of progress. But the bitterest food fight of the Obama administration took place in 2011 over an effort to limit junk-food marketing to kids. On the front lines in the war against childhood obesity are the nation's schools, where Michelle Obama said 30 million American children are getting "a majority of their calories.". In addition to the government's effort to support nutritional meals in schools, the first lady said there also needs to be a focus on physical activity in school. Health experts noted the effort as being the first time the issue was taken on as such a high priority by a presidential administration. If theres a silver lining in the numbers, its the reduction in obesity among very young children. All Rights Reserved. The overall childhood obesity rate, meanwhile, remained at a constant 16.9% from 2008 through 2012. All told, 12.7 million children were considered obese when Lets Move got underway in 2010. But there is concern about a group closely allied with the government collaborating with entities the government is supposed to oversee. When the first lady appears at Lets Move events with soda spokesmen such as LeBron James and Beyonc, some public health advocates suggested, she makes an implicit endorsement of products that are responsible for the obesity epidemic. Gehman Kohan, writing in an e-mail, added: It makes for an attention-grabbing headline to accuse the First Lady of caving to greedy private interests that might donate to the Obama campaign during an election year, but that simply was not the case.. Beyonc has just put Lets Move! When Wal-Mart required its suppliers to create tortillas with less salt, suppliers adjusted their recipes. She sat beside two Muppets Rosita and Elmo at a news conference and talked to them about Sesame Streets deal to allow produce companies to use its characters to market fruits and vegetables to kids. She has a celebrity and a status. And so I just want to say how proud I am of the first lady for her outstanding work," the president said, as she looked on. Congress has some sway over how Americans eat.

Food & Environment Reporting Network580 Fifth Ave., Ste. But Disneys standards arent as strict as the guidelines it opposed, and its unclear how they will be evaluated. They are comparable instead to the voluntary rules adopted by the Better Business Bureaus Childrens Food and Beverage Advertising Institute, which cover about 80 percent of foods advertised, including those of Kraft, PepsiCo and Kellogg, Wootan said. Magazines, Carbon Credits Should Be One of Our Best Tools to Fight Climate Change, What Watergate Experts Think About the Jan. 6 Hearings, Now Connecting Hot Days to Climate Change, Among Black and Indigenous Americans During COVID-19 Pandemic, Or create a free account to access more articles, This Chart Shows How Hard It Is to End Childhood Obesity. Or perhaps its resolve has eroded, for it remained mute during a bitter fight to limit junk-food marketing to kids. Other efforts included lobbying for menu labeling requirements that list the amount of calories. Her efforts have really resulted in the nation as a whole I think recognizing what an important issue it is for usto have all children grow up to have a healthy weight, said Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Among its seventy recommendations was one urging food companies to develop uniform voluntary standards for marketing food to kids that conform to federal dietary guidelines. (Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press). Michelle Obama announced her Lets Move campaign, an effort to fight childhood obesity by promoting healthier eating and physical activity among kids, five years ago Monday. Then she pivoted: I want to talk about the crisis of inactivity that we see among our kids and what each of us can do to start solving that problem.. Obesity rates for children between the ages of 2 and 5 decreased between 2003 and 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and some states recently have reported making progress against obesity in disadvantaged children. With the blessing of Obama, who declined to be interviewed for this article, Kass negotiated with Wal-Mart, the worlds largest retailer, on a plan to cut salt, sugar and fat from its product lines. Her position on the board of TreeHouse Foods, a key supplier of Wal-Marts private-label products, gave her an intimate familiarity with the business and made her a Democratic party figure that a company like Wal-Mart, whose family owners are big Republican donors, could work with. 24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events. It was both an acknowledgment that her legacy is not yet secure and a warning that she will not go away until it is. By joining with the Partnership for a Healthier America, an independent nonprofit group that works with Michelle Obama, the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation a big-food alliance could score political points for just doing what it had already planned: reformulate products and create smaller packages for consumers who were demanding such foods. She began her career at The Washington Post in 2001. For example, companies that partner with Solers group must agree to an evaluation that determines whether the company followed through on its commitment; the results are made public. The change that has provoked the most backlash is also the one mandated by a 2010 federal law that passed with broad bipartisan support. It also called, among other things, for the regulation of the foods sold in schools and clearer nutrition labels for packaged foods: hot-button issues for an industry resistant to such changes. Or as Brownell put it: How many more times are we going to get sucker-punched by the industry?. Shes not trying to be the food police. (There is also the worry that tweaking processed foods to make them slightly less unhealthy might lead people to eat more packaged products rather than the whole foods health experts advocate. Profits from her 2012 gardening book, American Grown, went to the nonprofit National Park Foundation, which is using the funds to offset the costs of the White House garden and finance programs promoting gardening and healthful eating. Others raised concerns the project would amount to nothing more than a high-profile public relations campaign that lacked any real substance. Read more of our reporting on nutrition & food access. As she was finding her footing as first lady in 2009 and developing her plan for Lets Move, Wal-Mart spent much of the same year surveying its customers about healthful eating and holding focus groups with customers they referred to as Wal-Mart moms. The women told the company that shopping for healthful food was a frustrating and expensive exercise, recalled Jack Sinclair, the former vice president for the grocery division of Wal-Mart U.S. I would certainly give (Obama) credit for raising the profile of the issue. The question raised by this tactic was: Do voluntary partnerships actually work, or do they merely allow food companies to burnish their image, even as their Washington lobbyists battle real reform measures? She urged the manufacturers of products like Doritos, Froot Loops and SpaghettiOs to make them healthier, to cooperate with the government on new food labels, and to get serious about reining in junk food marketed to kids. For all of the polarizing views and debate surrounding President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law, what is often overlooked is the role first lady Michelle Obama has played in helping to change food nutrition policy. The corporate allies she has sought may in some cases share her views, or, at least, see gains for themselves in their public association with her healthful-eating mission. As the first lady battled behind the scenes to push through school lunch reform, she also unveiled the Lets Move campaign in February 2010. All three food companies are members of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, the Lets Move partnership that agreed to cut calories from their products. The hard part, he said, will be getting consumers to buy the healthier foods. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press), Former White House chef and Lets Move director Sam Kass and wife, Alex Wagner, at the MSNBC after-party following the 2015 White House correspondents dinner. was a comprehensive initiative, launched by First Lady Michelle Obama, dedicated to solving the problem of obesity within a generation, so that children born today could grow up healthier and able to pursue their dreams. in a painfully awkward conflict of interest, Marion Nestle, a New York University nutrition and public health professor, wrote on her blog, Food Politics, after one event. Others also have pointed out the childhood obesity rate has not gone down since the start of Let's Move.. "I love burgers and fries, you know? To some, the Walmart partnership was a sign that Mrs. Obama was putting politics aside in a pragmatic bid to make real change in the food system. These are the kind of voluntary industry-led rules that child health advocates have found so wanting. Its dead in the water, Nestle said. Her immense value to the White House is as the charming face of her familys brand, a term her aides have uttered over the years, and healthy eating and fitness are the issues Obama has come to embody. One of the most significant and controversial actions the report identified was improving the quality of food served in schools, which included a lobbying effort to update nutritional standards for meals in the National School Lunch and Breakfast programs. What hasnt budged in 20years is this: 1 in 3 American children are overweight or obese, a public health crisis projected to deprive a generation of potential and to generate trillions of dollars in health-care costs. (April Greer/For The Washington Post), The first ladys close relationship with food-selling titan Wal-Mart may lead to the biggest changes propelled by Lets Move: healthier packaged food sold to consumers. But the most recent data show that driving down childhood obesity rates is proving to be an elusive goal. The same thing happened when the company demanded less water in liquid detergent. Supporters of the first lady's initiative contend it will likely be years before the effects of the campaign will be known. ABC News' Sunlen Miller contributed to this report. Privacy policy and Terms of use. In the next two years, Michelle Obama will have to remain involved in food policy to preserve the gains. Five years after she launched Lets Move, Michelle Obamas willingness to make a complete fool of myself is the most visible part of her campaign to end childhood obesity. They spoke to the agencies involved, and even suggested ways for the administration to rebut what she calls the industrys bogus talking points.. The speech was a thrilling display of Mrs. Obamas mettle and a watershed moment, raising expectations among health advocates. Her role and her interest in this topic accelerated our work., Her first partnership with the industry was to tout a 2010 pledge by food and beverage manufacturers to cut 1.5trillion calories out of the food sold in the United States by the end of 2015, via lower-calorie products, altered recipes and reduced portion sizes.