The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens

'Let’s Move' not about not eating, Kass says

First Lady Michelle Obama will not mount an “anti-eating” campaign to fight obesity like anti-smoking campaigns of the past, said Sam Kass, the White House deputy chef and senior adviser for healthy food initiatives.

Robin Schepper and Sam Kass
Robin Schepper, executive director of "Let's Move," and Sam Kass, White House deputy chef and senior adviser for healthy food initiatives

“ Eating is much different than smoking,” Kass told the North American Agricultural Journalists when they visited the White House complex on Monday. “Eating is something you must do three times a day. It is one of the most wonderful things about being a human being. There is nothing you can’t eat at one point.”

A negative campaign “would defeat the comprehensive approach” that the first lady has taken, he said — a reference to her “Let’s Move” campaign to encourage healthy eating, exercise and other measures to fight obesity.

Kass, who cooks for the Obama family as well as advising on food policy, noted that Michelle Obama had planted the White House garden “to highlight the importance of growing food” but had been pleased by the overwhelming response to it.

Kass and Robin Schepper, executive director of “Let’s Move,” acknowledged that tight budgets make it difficult for schools to provide physical education the way they did in the past. Kass noted, however, that there are examples of schools around the country that “have figured out how to balance their priorities.”

Schepper said she considers these efforts vital because 27 percent of applicants for the military are rejected for weight problems and young people who do enter the military often have dental problems because they have eaten so much sugar.

Of the 120,000 recruits the Army gets every year, 40 percent are overweight or obese, and 62 percent need dental care before they can be deployed, compared with 42 percent in 2000, according to the “Let’s Move” website.

So many recruits eat dougnuts for breakfast and can’t make it up a climbing wall, Schepper said, that the military has had to introduce nutrition education as part of program called “Fueling the Soldier Athlete.”