“So today I’m going to talk about food, which is something that all of you here today know a little bit about,” said First Lady Michelle Obama to an audience representing forty percent of the nearly one million restaurants in the United States, from the biggest chains to the smallest diners, at the National Restaurant Association Meeting in Washington, DC.
The First Lady discussed Let’s Move!, her nationwide campaign to solve the problem of childhood obesity in a generation, so that kids born today can reach adulthood at a healthy weight. Let’s Move! is about attacking the problem from all different angles – from giving parents the information and the resources they need to making sure every community has access to fresh and nutritious food. Today, the First Lady called on America’s restaurant owners for their help, challenging them to offer healthy, accessible menu options:
That’s why I want to challenge every restaurant to offer healthy menu options and then provide them up front so that parents don’t have to hunt around and read the small print to find an appropriately sized portion that doesn’t contain levels -- high levels of fat, salt and sugar.
These choices have to be easy to make and they have to give parents the confidence to know that they can go into any restaurant in this country and choose a genuinely healthy meal for their kids.
Now, again, I know it’s easier said than done. It’s not easy to come up with choices that are both healthy and palatable for kids. And it may mean putting in some real effort and creativity to make this happen.
Let's Move! is committed to helping increase the demand and making it easier for restaurants to do what’s right:
And we’ve started by requiring chain restaurants to provide calorie counts on their menus and menu boards. And I am grateful for the support we’ve received from the NRA to get this done. And I want to encourage restaurants that aren’t providing calorie counts to join us in this effort.
And because so many of the calories our kids consume come from school, we’re also working to get more nutritious food into our lunchrooms and our vending machines. And, again, the NRA has been playing an important role in these efforts as well.
As part of “Let’s Move,” we’re setting a goal of doubling the number of schools that participate in the Healthier US Schools Challenge by next year. And we’re working with schools and food suppliers to offer more fruits and vegetables and to cut down on that fat, sugar and salt.
And, finally, we’re working with mayors and other local officials to make our cities and towns healthier and to highlight restaurants that agree to serve smaller portions and promote more nutritious options.
In closing, Mrs. Obama encouraged everyone in the room to join her in these efforts to help make sure that every family that walks into a restaurant can make an easy, healthy choice.
We can make a commitment to promote vegetables and fruits and whole grains on every part of every menu. We can make portion sizes smaller and emphasize quality over quantity. And we can help create a culture -- imagine this -- where our kids ask for healthy options instead of resisting them.
See, after all, that’s one of the core ideals this industry was founded on. I recently learned that the term “restaurant” actually comes from the French word for “restore.” And when the idea of the restaurant business spread across the ocean, some of the first true restaurants in this country emphasized their ability to make people healthier and to cure what ailed them.
So today, you are all the heirs to that legacy. And you face a similar opportunity both as business owners -- but also as parents, not just to fulfill your obligations to shareholders, but to fulfill the obligation we all have to the next generation.