First Lady Launches Childhood Obesity Push With Nod to Biking & Walking

First Lady Michelle Obama took to the mikes this afternoon to kick off a national campaign to combat childhood obesity, emphasizing new initiatives to promote biking and walking alongside a strong focus on healthier food options in schools.

alg_michelle_obama_sesame_street.jpgThe first lady visited "Sesame Street" last fall as part of her push to fight childhood obesity. (Photo: NYDN)

Mrs. Obama appeared with six Cabinet members, the Surgeon General, and several lawmakers and mayors to mark the president’s official creation of a new Task Force on Childhood Obesity. As part of the first lady’s new effort, the White House plans to expand the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, while setting up a Safe and Healthy Schools Fund during hte next reauthorization of federal elementary education law.

In her remarks to the press this afternoon, Mrs. Obama paid particular attention to the lifestyle shifts that have led many kids to a more sedentary routine — and helped contribute to obesity rates of 17 percent for children and teens, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. (The same study found that one of every three U.S. kids are oversight.)

The first lady said:

In my home, we weren’t rich. The foods we ate weren’t fancy. But
there was always a vegetable on the plate. And we managed to lead a
pretty healthy life.

Many kids today aren’t so fortunate. Urban sprawl and fears about safety often mean the only walking they do
is out their front door to a bus or a car. Cuts in recess and gym mean
a lot less running around during the school day, and lunchtime may mean
a school lunch heavy on calories and fat. For many kids, those
afternoons spent riding bikes and playing ball until dusk have been
replaced by afternoons inside with TV, the Internet, and video games.

Mrs. Obama highlighted the presidential budget proposal for $400 million in financing to develop supermarkets and farmers’ markets in neighborhoods that currently lack a walkable healthy food option, but she did not directly mention Safe Routes to School, the federal program that helps carve out local routes for children to bike and walk from home to class every day.

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Report: More Kids Are Walking to School

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The long–term decline of walking and biking to school has been linked to the childhood obesity epidemic, a big share of morning rush hour traffic, and even kids’ lack of attention in class. In 1969, 41 percent of children in grades K–8 lived within one mile of school, and of those kids, 89 percent usually walked or biked. By 2009, […]