Remarks by the First Lady on Healthy School Meals and Healthy Changes Happening in Mississippi
2:08 P.M. CST
MRS. OBAMA: Good afternoon, everyone. I am beyond thrilled to be back here in Mississippi. And I want to start by thanking Emma. I mean, first of all, I know she’s glad that's over. (Laughter.) Now she can actually enjoy this visit. But she did an outstanding job. I mean, just to hear her be able to articulate what good health and solid eating and strong programs and support from her school -- just the intelligence and the eloquence with which she spoke -- this is the reason why we do this. And we're very proud of Emma and her family, and all of the students and faculty who have worked so hard to make life better for so many of our kids. So let’s give them a round of applause. (Applause.) Very proud of her.
And I also want to -- you all, please be seated. (Laughter.) That's not part of Let’s Move. (Laughter.) I could make you do some stuff, but you all rest. You’ve done the work. We're here to recognize you. Thanks so much.
But to Dr. Lynn House, to Dr. Phil Burchfield, and to all of the partners -- because there are many who have made this success possible -- I want to thank them for their work.
And of course, I want to thank Rachael Ray, who is here and who -- there she is in the back. She’s getting ready to cook and run around and do great stuff. Rachael has been such an important voice and advocate for making sure that our kids and our communities just eat healthy. So I'm thrilled that she has come here with me to Mississippi to help celebrate your accomplishments. Let’s give Rachael a round of applause. (Applause.)
Now, as you probably know, there’s a reason why I wanted to come here to this state for the very first day of our Let's Move anniversary tour. And that’s because what’s happening here in Mississippi is really what Let's Move is all about. It’s the story of what you all have achieved here that we want to tell. It’s the story we want to be telling in every state all across this country.
And I remember what things were like back when I visited here just three years ago. Mississippi had been declared the most obese state in America. And a lot of people thought that childhood obesity was an impossible problem. They thought it was too big, too complicated, and too entrenched for any of us to ever really be able to make a difference on this issue. But, fortunately, all of you here in this room had a different view on things.
Under the leadership of your former governor, folks across this state had already started stepping up to tackle this challenge head on. Your state legislature passed a law bringing more hours of physical activity and health education into your classrooms. Your state Board of Education set new standards for food and drinks in our school vending machines.
Your schools did hard work. They replaced their fryers with steamers -- hallelujah. (Applause.) And started serving more fruits and vegetables and whole grains, as Emma talked about. All of our phenomenal teachers and parents joined school health councils and wellness committees. Universities started educating families about healthy eating. Faith communities ran summer nutrition programs for children, and some even declared their congregations “no-fry zones” where only healthy food was allowed.
And today, with all that work, with all those people stepping up, the results of these efforts speak for themselves. In recent years, the state of Mississippi has seen obesity rates drop 13 percent among elementary school-aged kids. (Applause.) Yes, congratulations. In a few short years, 13 percent. Just think about that for a minute, what that means for kids in this state. I know you all know because you're doing this work because you care about our kids.
That means that tens of thousands of children here in Mississippi are getting the healthy start to their lives that they need. They’ve got more energy as a result. They’re at lower risk for diseases like diabetes and heart disease and cancer. And they’ve got more of the nutrition they need to succeed in school, which is crucial for them to be able to succeed in life, which is our ultimate goal for them.
So these are major, major achievements. And I know that getting to this point hasn’t been easy. I know that a lot of folks had to put in a lot of time and effort to make all this possible. And I’m particularly proud of all of the school chefs, the food service workers at schools like this one all across this state, and all across this country.
And I want to take time to recognize those folks in the kitchen who do the hard work of cooking for our kids and loving every minute of it. When we passed historic legislation to improve school lunches for the first time in 15 years, these were the folks who had to totally transform their menus in a matter of months. They went from frying to baking. They had to work with totally new ingredients. And they had to satisfy both strict nutrition requirements and, as we know, picky eaters. Anybody at home, you know what they were going through.
So they have had to be creative and do a whole lot of trial and error. But they kept at it. And they kept at it for one simple reason -- as I said, because they love our kids. And in the end, more than anything else, that is what drives Let's Move -- our love for our children. That’s what this effort is all about. It’s about all of us coming together to give our kids everything they need -- everything they need -- to learn and grow, and fulfill their God-given potential.
And as we can see right here in Mississippi, when we do that, when we take that love and turn it into action and we all step up and do our part, we can actually solve this problem. We can actually see real, measurable declines in the rates of childhood obesity. We’ve seen that right here in Mississippi. We’ve seen it in other places. We've seen it in Philadelphia. We’ve seen it in New York City. We've seen it in the state of California. So there’s no reason why this success can’t happen in cities and states all across the country -- if we’re willing to work for it.
So now is the time for us to truly double down on these efforts. We know what works. We're seeing it right here. We know how to get results. Now we just need to keep stepping up. Now we just need to keep putting the energy and the effort and the imagination behind all of this work.
That’s what all of you have done here in Mississippi. So I'm here to say, Mississippi, thank you. Thank you so much. Congratulations on your work. Thank you for taking the lead on this issue. Thank you for serving as an inspiration for states and communities across this country. And thank you for your hard work, day in and day out, to give all of our children the happy, healthy futures they so richly deserve.
So now we're going to have some fun. We're going to have a Let's Move cafeteria cook-off. We're going to put this excitement into action. And I'm going to spend some time with I hope a room full of excited kids. So, thank you, guys. And let’s have some fun now. Take care. (Applause.)
END 2:16 P.M. CST