Partnering to Fight Childhood Obesity

May 17, 2010 | 12:21 | Public Domain

First Lady Michelle Obama announces an agreement between food and beverage manufacturers and the Partnership for a Healthier America to Fight Childhood Obesity that aims to reduce the amount of calories in manufactured food and encourage lower calorie options and smaller portion sizes.

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Remarks by the First Lady at Healthy Weight Announcement Press Conference

South Court Auditorium

3:05 P.M. EDT

MRS. OBAMA:  Thank you, everyone.  Please sit.  Lynn, don’t get up.  I’m just teasing you.  (Laughter.)  Good afternoon, everyone.  I’m just teasing you, Lynn.

It’s been three months since we launched “Let’s Move,” a new initiative with an ambitious goal to help reverse the epidemic of childhood obesity in this country and end it in a generation. 

And we built this initiative around four main pillars.  We’re moving to make our schools healthier.  We’re moving to increase the amount of physical activity that our kids get at school and at home.  We’re moving to eliminate food deserts so that every American can have easy and affordable access to fresh, healthy foods right where they live.  And we’re moving to give parents the information they need to make healthy decisions for their families.  Most often, these decisions involve the food that we -- that our families buy. 

Now, we all know how important it is to eat less sugar and fat and more fruits and vegetables and whole grains.  But we also know that sometimes it’s just easier to grab something quick and easy at the market. 

And also we know that no matter how much we try to instill healthy eating habits in our kids, when we’re not around, they grab that bag of chips, the candy bar, or that can of soda.

But today, between what’s in our food and how much of it that we eat, Americans consume more calories, fat and sugar today than ever before.  Compared to 40 years ago, we consume 23 percent more calories, 56 percent more added fats and oils and dairy fat, and 14 percent more sugar and sweetener.  Now, that's 12 extra pounds of sugar a year just in 40 years.

And last week, as all of you know, we released the findings of our task force’s report outlining important steps the private and public sectors should take in the months and years ahead. 

So that's why today I am so pleased to be joined by the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation and the Partnership for a Healthier America to announce a major agreement on the part of the private sector corporations to improve the nutrition of the food that we put on the table or that we grab on the run.

The Healthy Weight Commitment is a partnership between 16 corporations that account for roughly 20 to 25 percent of the American food supply.  And today, I am thrilled to say that they have pledged to cut a total of 1 trillion calories from the food they sell annually by the year 2012, and 1.5 trillion calories by 2015.

They’ve agreed to reformulate their foods in a number of ways, including by addressing fat and sugar content, by introducing lower-calorie options, and by reducing the portion sizes of existing single-serve products. 

They’ve also agreed to work with the Partnership for a Healthier America to come forward with specific commitments to reduce sugar and fat in their products within six months. 

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is going to serve as an independent evaluator as these companies work towards their goals.  And the Partnership for a Healthier America will hold the participating companies accountable for meeting today’s pledge. 

This commitment represents a major step forward to providing Americans with healthier choices so that they can choose to lead healthier lives.  And in the weeks and months to come, we expect to hear more announcements regarding specific steps on reducing sugar, fat and sodium in the foods that our children eat, because as I’ve said so many times before, solving the obesity epidemic in this country requires far more than anything government can or should do.  It will require all of us working together -- parents and children, teachers, principals, super markets, food manufacturers, restaurants, fast food chains, mayors, governors, and, yes, First Ladies. 

This is precisely the kind of real private-sector commitment that we need.  So I am grateful to these companies for stepping out and being among the first to make this happen.  And I hope that more will follow the example that they’ve set and step up to the plate on behalf of our children, too, because as ambitious as this goal is to end the epidemic of childhood obesity within a generation, as we all know, it is achievable -- that is, if we’re all willing to play our part. 

Now, it is my pleasure to introduce David Mackay, who is the chair of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation.  David, we are so grateful for all that you’ve done.  Thank you so much.

3:11 P.M. EDT

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