The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens


First lady adds counties to ‘Let's Move’ anti-obesity program


First Lady Michelle Obama and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter
get help from local school children as they cut the ribbon on a new
"Imagination Playground in a Cart" donated by KaBOOM!,
which helps create new play spaces in communities across the country.
(ObamaFoodorama/Eddie Gehman Kohan)

PHILADELPHIA — Counties have been added to the Obama administration’s “Let's Move” anti-obesity initiative, and county governments that get their citizens to improve their diets and exercise more could be eligible for medals, First Lady Michelle Obama announced here Wednesday at an event with a dozen mayors and county supervisors.

First Lady Michelle Obama

First Lady Michelle Obama
“Every day, local officials like these are changing our children’s lives and helping them learn and grow and fulfill every last bit of their potential. And thanks to the commitments we’re announcing today, our cities, towns and counties will be able to do even more,” Obama said at the Lenfest Police Athletic League Center in a center city neighborhood.

“We still have a long way to go to solve this problem,” she said. “But if leaders like these keep coming to the table and we all keep working together, then I am confident that we can give all our children the happy, healthy futures they so richly deserve.”

The addition of counties to the "Let’s Move" group raises the likelihood of more anti-obesity movements being created in rural America — and also the possibility that the first lady can turn participants into supporters in President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign this fall.

In a news release, the White House noted that hundreds of mayors and other local officials have signed up to start initiatives tailored to help their communities get healthier since the first lady launched “Let's Move Cities and Towns” in 2010, and that "since then the program has expanded to include counties."

But today appears to be the first time that she and the White House have referred to the campaign as "Let's Move! Cities, Towns and Counties" with an acronym "LMCTC."

A spokeswoman for the National Association of Counties said that Athens County Ohio Commissioner Lenny Eliason, former NACO president, had worked with the White House to get counties added to the program last summer.

As the first lady made the announcement, she was backed up by mayors in town for a U.S. Conference of Mayors leadership meeting, as well as supervisors from Linn County, Iowa, and DeKalb County, Ga., and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who noted that her agency has adopted healthier eating guidelines in its cafeterias.

"You don't have to spend a fortune to have an impact on this issue," Obama noted, adding that she is “upbeat” about the accomplishments of “Let's Move.”

This weekend, she said, “Kids will be riding bikes, picking up vegetables in community gardens ... families are going to play together in neighborhood parks.”

These are “small changes in how we lead our daily lives add up over time,” the first lady said.


First Lady Michelle Obama was joined at the Philadelphia event
by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, left,
who said that her agency had joined those that have adopted healthier eating
guidelines in its cafeterias. (ObamaFoodorama/Eddie Gehman Kohan)

Obama urged all local officials to sign up for the program online at a website sponsored by the National League of Cities. (Link below)

NLC said that, with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the cities' groups will provide all elected officials who sign up for the initiative with free resources, access to experts, tracking tools and maps to help them make healthy changes, record progress, and connect with other “Lets Move! Cities, Towns and Counties” sites.

NLC also is collaborating with the United States Conference of Mayors, which represents the bigger cities, and the National Association of Counties to support elected officials in their efforts to create healthier communities.

Gold, silver, and bronze medals, with associated goals, have been established for the program. Over the next year, cities, towns and counties have the opportunity to earn five gold medals. When a site reaches a benchmark, it will earn a medal and be recognized by the National League of Cities.

Some localities, including many smaller, rural places, have already won medals, according to the website.

Local officials joining the effort must commit to trying to reach five goals:
  • Help early care and education program providers incorporate best practices for nutrition, physical activity and screen time into their programs.
  • Display MyPlate (the USDA dietary guidelines) in all municipal or county venues where food is served.
  • Provide healthy food in schools and increase participation in the school breakfast program and the national school lunch program.
  • Implement healthy and sustainable food service guidelines that are aligned with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans in all municipal and county venues that serve food.
  • Map local play spaces, complete a community needs assessment, develop an action plan and launch at least three proven policies, programs or initiatives aimed at increasing access to play.