Touting what she called a fundamental shift in how America lives and eats, first lady Michelle Obama made Georgia her prime stop Wednesday to celebrate the first anniversary of her “Let’s Move” campaign aimed at improving children’s health.
“It’s a conversation about what our kids eat and how active they are,” Obama told parents and community leaders at North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, one of two stops she made in metro Atlanta. “About how they feel about themselves. And about what that means, not just their physical and emotional health, but for their success in school and in life.”
To that end, Obama unveiled a public service campaign to provide parents and families information on healthy food and physical activity. She spent the early afternoon at Atlanta Public School’s Burgess-Peterson Academy handing out snacks of fresh blueberries and touring the East Atlanta school’s organic garden.
“I’m so proud of you,” Obama told students in Megan Kiser’s second-grade class, where one student, 7-year-old Laniya Bentley, had already decided to dedicate the pink Valentine’s Day’s planter she was making to the first lady. “She’s beautiful,” Laniya said, before being reminded why she was receiving such a special visit.
“Eating right is not only good for your body, but it’s good for your mind,” Obama told the children, before touring a garden filled with winter crops.
Obama’s trip to Georgia was not accidental. Georgia has the second-highest rate of childhood obesity in the United States. Nearly one in three children ages 10 to 17 in Georgia are considered to be overweight or obese, according to the 2007 National Survey of Children’s Health, likely because of a combination of poor nutrition and lack of physical activity, and influenced by societal factors including family dynamics, school systems and societal norms. In turn, childhood obesity can lead to diabetes, high cholesterol and other potentially deadly problems.
Obama peppered her 15-minute talk in Alpharetta with personal stories of children and parents she has met across the country.
“You asked for more fresh food in your community,” she said. “You wanted healthier, more affordable options on those grocery store shelves. You asked for more information about the food you buy for your kids, for better food in your kids school.”
Obama said that obesity is not just some public threat, it’s personal.
“This is the kind of stuff that keeps us lying awake at night,” she said. “Unfortunately kids don’t come with an instruction manual. I wish they did. Sasha needs a big one,” she said, drawing applause.
“You can’t ignore the fact that we have a crisis with childhood obesity,” said Burgess-Peterson Principal Robin Robbins, who greeted Obama when she arrived at the school earlier Wednesday among dignitaries that included Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson.
“Coach” Betty Jackson, a driving force behind the school’s wellness efforts, said the240 students started the day like they always do, with a “jammin’ minute” of exercise and a healthy eating tip delivered by children chosen to be student wellness ambassadors.
“I’m honored,” Jackson said of Obama’s visit. “It says what I’m doing for the children is actually working.”