The presidential task force will include the secretaries of health, education, agriculture and the interior. The department heads will be working in conjunction with the First Lady's office to create healthy initiatives for children. They'll report back to the President within 90 days on the progress of federal youth diet and exercise programs.
Mrs. Obama has made childhood nutrition and fitness a priority since she entered the White House last year, planting a vegetable garden on the White House grounds with elementary school students in April and hosting exercise-promoting events like the Healthy Kids Fair in October where she famously showed off her hula hooping skills.
Today's initiative, dubbed "Let's Move", will establish a partnership between federal agencies and business, entertainment, and medical communities to promote healthy habits for children both at home and in school. It will also identify urban areas where access to nutritious food is limited, using funds from the President's 2011 budget proposal to bring grocery stores and farmers markets to underprivileged communities.
Mrs. Obama called on members of the public and private sector to join her cause, stressing that the fight against childhood obesity required group action. In an afternoon event at the White House, the First Lady said she can relate to parents who struggle with the challenge of balancing work and family responsibilities. She acknowledged that like many busy parents, there were times where she went with the easiest or cheapest option for her daughters, even though it wasn't necessarily the healthiest choice. It was her pediatrician who expressed concern. "That was my moment of truth," Mrs. Obama said, "It was a wakeup call that I was the one in charge, even if it didn't always feel that way."
The First Lady encouraged families to make small changes in their daily routines to make room for healthy habits, but assured kids that there will always be room for treats. "There is a place in this life for burgers and ice cream, cookies and fries," she said. But she added that balance is key, and parents and children should get into the habit of walking to school or replacing sugary drinks with milk and water.
The White House will create a website for families to reference for healthy tips, and government agencies will work with schools to improve the lunches they serve. The First Lady also announced a new foundation to coordinate efforts between businesses and non-profits, and state and local governments. The Partnership for a Healthier America will work with Mrs. Obama's office to rally support and measure progress along the way.