First Lady Urges Healthy Diet and Exercise

Mrs. Obama:
Well, hello!
Mrs. Obama:
It’s good to see everybody.
Perfect weather, right?
Mrs. Obama:
Thank you so much.
I am thrilled to have you all
here today at the White House.
And I also want to thank a
few people before we start,
not just the young
people here who also —
some of you brought
your parents,
so let’s see the parents.
Give the parents a
round of applause.
But in addition to all of you,
we’ve got a few pretty special guests.
We’ve got some talented chefs
and nutritionists here to teach
us how to make healthy
breakfasts, lunches and snacks.
So I want to first want to
introduce Koren Grieveson,
who I just got to meet.
Koren, where are you?
There she is, over there.
She’s from my hometown, Chicago.
Yay for Chicago. And
then we have Todd Gray.
Todd, where are you?
Raise your hand.
Todd is from my new hometown
right here in Washington, D.C.
And then we’ve got Sam Kass who
a lot of you probably met —
— but Sam is in charge
of the White House Garden,
so he oversees all of that along
with all of our wonderful White House chefs.
Everybody from the White
House team, raise your hands,
all of our White House crew.
And we also have Vahista Ussery
and the rest of the staff from
the School Nutrition Association
who are on the frontlines every
day in our schools.
So Vahista, where are you and
all of the nutrition experts?
And Elie Krieger, one of the
nutritionists from the Food
Network, she’s way in
the back with her family.
Thank you, Elie.
And I want to thank all
the folks from the YMCA and Playworks.
They helped us set up all the
fun things that we’re going to
have to do after we
get through talking.
So let’s give them
a round of applause.
— U.S. Department of Agriculture for joining us today
and for all of his hard work and
leadership on making our food
and our schools healthier.
He’s been doing
a phenomenal job.
And it seems like just yesterday
that Secretary Vilsack and I
were out here to begin
digging for the garden.
And it seems like
just yesterday.
And one of our goals was to
focus on the importance of
educating our kids
about healthy eating.
So it wasn’t just about
planting a garden.
It was also to begin to talk
about nutrition and to highlight
the little ways that each of us
can add more healthy fruits and
vegetables to our diet,
something that I think about all
the time as a mother.
We felt that this was especially
important right now when so many
children in this nation are
facing health problems that are
entirely preventable.
So we’ve got our kids who are
struggling with things that we
have the power to control.
Right now one in three
children in this country
are overweight or obese.
And as I’ve said
many times before,
if we think we’re dealing with
a serious health problem now,
you know, then we
project out to five, 10,
20 years from now when we see
these rates increase and all the
illnesses that
result from obesity,
whether it’s high blood
pressure, or heart disease, cancer.
And believe it or not, which
is a very surprising thing,
medical experts are now warning
that for the first time in the
history of this nation, we’re
headed for the next generation
being on track to have a
shorter life span than us.
That’s the way we’re
going right now.
And none of us wants that.
None of us wants that for our
children and for our children’s futures.
Even if we don’t
care about ourselves,
we don’t want that for our kids.
We want our children
to eat right,
not just because it’s the right
thing to do but because quite
frankly healthy good food
tastes good and we want them to
experience that.
We don’t just want our kids to
exercise because we tell them to.
We want them to exercise because
it’s fun and they enjoy it.
And we want them to learn
now how to lead good,
healthy lifestyles so that
they’re not struggling to figure
out how to do that
when they’re older.
But as a parent, and I
know all of you here today,
we know that sometimes doing all
that is easier said than done,
because we all care but it
is becoming so increasingly
difficult to provide
all that for our kids.
And you all know that better
than anyone here, as parents.
We’re all pulled in a
million different directions,
working hard, working long
hours, trying to do everything,
be perfect parents.
We love you guys so much we
just want everything for you.
But it’s hard to do everything.
And when you come home
from a long day at work,
and the refrigerator is empty,
and you know you don’t feel like cooking —
— the easiest and sometimes the cheapest thing to do is to get
in a fast food drive-thru.
We’ve all done it because we are
overwhelmed and we don’t know
what the options are.
And today life is so different
from when I was growing up, kids.
And I know your
parents tell you this.
I tell my kids this.
When I was growing up,
fast food was a treat.
You know, we couldn’t afford
to get fast food every week,
because my parents
couldn’t afford it,
so it was something you
did on a special occasion.
We had pizza about once
every school year —
once every semester
when we got good grades.
That’s when we got pizza.
It was pizza day.
That’s what we got for
getting good grades, pizza.
And we didn’t have dessert
every single night.
My mother would tell us,
“Dessert is not a right.
It’s a treat.”
So we had it on
special occasions.
We didn’t have — and I
have to tell my kids this —
you don’t get dessert
every night of the week.
Otherwise it’s not a treat;
it’s just something that you do.
And my mother was also very
clear in our household that you
ate what she fixed.
Mmm, yes.
You ate what she fixed,
and if you didn’t eat that,
then you didn’t eat.
And in my household — is
if you say you’re not hungry,
then you have to
eat your vegetables,
and then you get up and leave, and you don’t ask for anything
else, and go to bed, right?
So these are the kind of
rules that I grew up with,
that all of your moms and
your dads grew up with,
and these are the kind of rules
and boundaries and guidelines
that we want to
set for all of you.
But in my household, there
were no absolutes, right?
I mean, we love good food, too.
That’s why I always say there’s
nothing that the First Family
loves more than a
good burger, right?
And look, my favorite food in
the whole wide world are French fries.
I love them.
I have a good relationship with
French fries and I would eat
them every single
day if I could.
I really would.
But I know that if I’m
eating the right things —
and I tell my girls this — if you’re getting the right foods
for most of the time, then when it’s time to have cake and
french fries on those special occasions, then you balance it out.
So it’s not about
any absolute no’s.
It’s just about
striking a balance.
And that’s what I know your moms
are trying to teach you all.
That’s what I’m trying
to teach my girls.
But these days, even when
parents do have the time and the
resources to buy healthy foods
and make a simple meal at home,
the reality is that kids are
spending a third of their time
at school, right?
So we don’t have control over
what you eat when you’re at school.
So even when we’re — when we’re working hard to give our kids
healthy food at home, if they go to school and eat a lunch that’s
loaded with calories and fat, then all the efforts that we try
to instill at home, it gets knocked off a little bit.
And many kids don’t have any
access to physical education in
the schools — and that’s also something that’s also changed.
When I grew up — and I
went to public schools in my
neighborhood — I don’t
care what you did;
you had recess and you had
gym on a very regular basis.
So even though we’re encouraging
our kids to exercise,
if they can’t go to
school and that —
get the same kind of
exercise opportunities,
then it makes our jobs
as parents harder.
And one of the things that I
want to do is to begin focusing
on ways that this
administration can help parents,
kids and families in tackling
all these challenges.
We want to make it a
little easier on you all —
not just tell you what to do
and what you should look like,
but help you with some resources
so that it doesn’t feel so impossible.
And that’s one of the
reasons why we’re here today,
because we know that schools can
play an important role in the
work that we hope to achieve.
And that’s why the Department
of Agriculture has started this
wonderful challenge called Healthier U.S. School Challenge.
And the goal of this challenge
is to find schools who are going
to commit to making fresh
healthy food available —
we want them to pledge that,
that’s part of the challenge —
but in addition to making
healthy foods available,
getting rid of the junk food in
the school, making that pledge,
get rid of it, but also to be
sure that they’re setting aside
time for physical activity
during the day in the curriculum
and teaching kids about healthy
food choices during the day.
And I am pleased to announce
that there are about 635 schools
from across the country
who have met the challenge,
and we have some of those
schools with us today.
But my goal is to challenge more
schools and more communities to
take part in this, particularly
middle and high school students,
because right now those 635
students are at the elementary
school level, and we need to
take this challenge up to kids
in middle schools
and high schools.
So I’m looking forward to
visiting some of the schools
that have joined the
Healthy School Challenge.
That’s a pledge that I have.
If your school commits
to this challenge,
there’s a possibility that
I’ll come and check it out.
But I’m not coming if you’re not
a part of the challenge, right?
So we want to get more
schools to follow this lead.
And of course changing
old habits is never easy.
That’s why it’s going to take
a broader team effort with
everyone pitching in, and it’s
going to take government doing its part.
And that’s why this
administration is going to be
working hard to reauthorize our
federal Child Nutrition program,
because with 30 million kids
relying on a school breakfast or
a lunch as one of their
primary meals of the day,
we need to make sure that these
meals are nutritious and well
balanced, and that more kids can
have access so that they don’t
have to go hungry in school.
And the chefs and nutritionists
here today are going to show us
how we can use the food that the
USDA provides to schools as a
way to prepare really
tasty, healthy foods.
That’s why they’re here today,
because they’re going to take
that food that you get in the
schools and do some special
stuff to show that with
the food that we have,
we can probably do even
better than we’re doing.
We’ll also need all you
kids to be a part of that.
Now, I know you’re dozing off.
I see it.
It’s hot, I want to play.
But we’re going
to need you, too.
And what are we going
to need you to do?
Stay healthy.
Mrs. Obama:
Yes, sir.
Stay healthy.
Mrs. Obama:
Stay healthy.
And how do you stay healthy?
Eating the right things.
Mrs. Obama:
Eating the right things.
We’re going to need you to help
your parents with these choices.
So when vegetables
on your plate —
we don’t want to hear,
“I don’t want to eat it.
I don’t like it.”
“It tastes bad.
I don’t want it.”
We don’t want to
hear the whining.
We want you to eat it.
Just eat it, right?
And what else do
we need you to do?
If you’re going to be
strong and healthy,
what do we need you to do?
Be good, be healthy,
and be nice.
Mrs. Obama:
Be good, be
healthy, and be nice.
And exercise.
You’ve got to play.
So in order to play, you’ve
got to turn off what?
Mrs. Obama:
Turn off the TV.
In our household, no
TV during school days.
And only a couple hours
during the weekend, I’m sorry.
But because the TV is off, my
girls get up and they move.
Even if they’re pushing each
other down, they’re running.
So we’re going to need
you to help your parents.
Turn off the TV on your own.
Get up and throw a ball.
Run around the house.
Don’t break anything, but move.
Try to go outside if you can.
That’s why we’re here
at the White House,
because we’re reaching out to
schools, to families, to kids.
And we’re inviting you guys to
be a part of our team and think
about all of us doing our part.
And one of the children who
came here and helped us with the
garden — this was a very powerful moment in this whole
garden experience, was after we planted and we harvested and we
ate together, the kids
talked about this experience.
Some of the kids from
Bancroft School — yay —
— they’re a little older than you, but they were fifth-graders.
And one of them — a few
of them wrote that —
she said she’s “a pretty regular
fifth-grader who loves sweets.”
And she said because of
her time in the garden,
she said “…has made me think
about the choices I have with
what I put in my mouth.”
So she learned about the power
of what choices she makes —
not what her mom tells her what
to do, not what her teachers,
but the choices that she makes.
And another child wrote — he said — it was inspired —
“It has inspired us to eat
better and work harder.”
And then there was the student
who wrote with great excitement
about what he learned
about tomatoes.
I remember this because
he read this report to me.
He said, not just that they’re
both a fruit and a vegetable but
that “…they fight diseases
like cancer and heart problems,
and that they have a lot
of vitamins in them, too.”
And armed with that
knowledge, he declared,
“So the tomato is a fruit and
it is now my best friend.”
That’s what we want
you all to think,
that vegetables and
fruits are not the enemy;
it is the power
to a good future.
And in the end, that’s what
we’re all trying to do here.
That’s why we’ve invited
you to the South Lawn.
That’s why all these
cameras are here.
That’s why Secretary
Vilsack is here,
because we are now focused on
your future and what are you
going to feel like and be.
And part of that has
to do with your health.
And it starts with how you
eat and how you exercise.
So we hope you guys are
all game to join the fight.
We hope that there are schools
all across this country that
will join the challenge.
We hope that there are more
parents that are going to be
focused in thinking about
ways that we can help you all.
But I now want to turn it over
to Secretary Vilsack who has
been a phenomenal
partner in this effort.
We couldn’t do this without
the work of the Department of
Agriculture, and he has been
steadfast in this fight to
ensure that children have
healthier options in the schools.
So he has been a dear friend,
and I want you all to give him a
big round of applause and
welcome him to the podium.
Thank you so much.
Secretary Vilsack:
Well thank you very much.
Well, boys and girls I have a
number of responsibilities today
but the first and most important
responsibility I have,
besides welcoming you, is to
thank the First Lady for her
championing this effort.
We could not have a better
spokes person in the entire
country for this particular
initiative than the First Lady.
She has not only showed
up for things like this,
but she has actually
worked in the garden,
she helped focus our attention
on the importance of raising
fruits and vegetables, she has
been a constant spokes person
about physical activity
and healthy eating.
And, First Lady, I just want to
thank you from the bottom of my
heart because there are 30
million children who today are
going to have school lunches but
tomorrow are going to have a
better school lunch
because of your advocacy.
So thank you, for your efforts.
And I appreciate you sharing
with us your personal stories.
Your family.
It brought back
memories in my family.
And boys and girls, I started
out in life in an orphanage and
the first picture I have
of myself as a child,
I have spinach all over my face.
It was a very round face.
But, you know, sometimes I have
a problem between understanding
the difference between everyday
foods and sometimes foods.
See I grew up thinking that
cookies and pies and cakes and
desserts, were everyday foods
and they are not they are
sometimes foods.
As the First Lady
indicated, they are treats.
The everyday foods are the
fruits and vegetables that are
going to help you
to grow strong.
They are going to help you be
able to do a better job in school.
And that’s what this
country needs you to do.
We need you to be the best
students that you can possibly be.
And in order for that to happen,
you have to be well fed and you
also have to be
physically active.
So its part of my job and my
responsibility to make sure that
we do a good job — a better job
then we have done in the past in
making sure that the meals that
you have available at school
lunches and school breakfast are
as nutritious as they can be.
And the First Lady mentioned the
Reauthorization Act — that’s a
law that basically says that
it’s part of the Nation’s
responsibility to all of you
to make healthy meals available.
And we’re going to be working
with the First Lady and the
President, the Congress to try
and make sure that we have the
resources necessary for schools
to be able to go out and
purchase those fruits and
vegetables and improve the
quality of those meals, because
unfortunately we are now getting
studies from a lot of different
places that have suggested that
the meals that we are providing
and the diets of young people
today have far to much salt and
far to much sugar and far to
much trans fat which makes it
very difficult for folks to stay healthy.
That’s one of the reasons why
we are currently faced with the
fact that we are seeing a
growing obesity epidemic among
our children.
And I think it’s incumbent upon
all of us to do everything we
possibly can to give you
a great start in life.
And that means making sure
that you are well fed.
It also means
acknowledging the schools,
as the First Lady indicated, who
take the extra step of not only
providing nutritious meals but
also making sure that you have
time in a busy school schedule
for physical activity.
We are partnering with a
variety of other entities.
The NFL, the National
Football League,
is encouraging 60 minutes of
physical activity and we support
their effort and schools are
an important part of that.
And we want to make sure
that we acknowledge,
through our healthier
us school challenge,
those schools that go the extra
mile to give children the best
start that they
can possibly get.
And so, we are going
to be working hard,
because we know that the future
of our children and the future
of our country depends on this.
This is no small matter.
And let me tell you
how important it is.
When I was asked by the
President to take this job as
Secretary of Agriculture, I will
never forget the first thing
that he said to me.
The first instruction
I got from my boss.
It is very important.
I expected him to say
something about farms and
ranches and the Farm Bill.
I expected him to maybe talk
about our responsibilities
over seas with food aid.
But he looked at me — and he
was very clear about this —
he said I want our children to
be fed more nutritious meals.
That was the first
instruction that he gave me.
So it’s important to the
president and the first lady
that you are well fed.
And I just left the president’s
office and we just signed the
Agriculture Appropriation’s
Bill which includes additional
resources to assist us in
providing more fruits and vegetables.
Additional resources to help
with summer feeding programs so
that youngsters get
nutritious meals.
So let me finish where I began
with thanking the First Lady.
We are going to put her
in charge of weather.
She seems to have a
good hand with that.
She just has been a
tremendous advocate for this.
And I look forward to working
under her leadership and
direction in making sure
that we fulfill a promise.
That we made to you — to the
children of America today.
We are going to work as hard as
we possibly can to make sure
that you have the great
start that you deserve.
Thank you all.
First Lady:
All right. So now,
this is the easy part.
We can have some fun.
We’ve got stations set up where
you can go by and learn about
nutrition and structuring good
healthy meals but we also have
some fun stuff going on.
And I plan on jumping a little
rope and doing a little hula-hooping.
So if you want to join
me, let’s get going.

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