First Lady Enlists Faith Community to Take on Hunger, Obesity

The first lady launched an interfaith effort on Monday to take on childhood obesity alongside the White House healthy kids initiative "Let's Move!"

In a conference call with interfaith groups and community leaders, Michelle Obama praised the current progress with the Let's Move! initiative while enlisting religious leaders in a renewed effort to reduce and eliminate hunger and obesity in children. The new effort has been dubbed Let's Move: Faith and Communities.

"One in three children in this country is either overweight or obese, and you've all seen the impact this issue has on the lives of our children … unhealthy children grow up to be unhealthy adults struggling with diseases like diabetes and cancer and heart disease," she emphasized.

On the call were 10 groups, including the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, United Church of Christ's Heath Care Justice ministry and the Girl Scouts Council of the Nation's Capital. Many of them have been working for years to banish the statistics that Obama made mention of.

The first lady acknowledged this during the call. "Many of you have been leading the way on this issue for so long, for many years. Long before there was a Let's Move!, many of you were running your own summer nutrition programs for kids," she recognized.

She said the new Let's Move: Faith and Communities effort is meant to support what is already working and highlight those accomplishments. A virtual tool kit with tips and ideas is available to help groups expand their efforts under the umbrella of the Let's Move! campaign. For those groups working hard to accomplish the campaign's goals, there will be designations for the new Presidential Active Lifestyle Award. The administration has 500 to give out.

Obama also presented new goals for the coming year. Goals include walking a total of 3 million miles. A daily walking chart is already posted on its website. Families and walking groups are encouraged to begin using the charts to document their daily activity. Children who complete several of the charts can mail them in for a prize.

"We are very results-focused," she stated. "We want to make sure that we're having a real and measurable impact on our kids' lives. So everything we do here, we try to measure."

Obama also wants to host 10,000 farmers' markets and create 1,000 new summer feeding sites.

There will be a Washington, D.C., kickoff event for the new faith initiative. Though the event has not yet been scheduled, the first lady invited all faith groups on the call to attend to share ideas for the new faith and community initiative, celebrate accomplishments and commit to new goals.

Already 50 groups have accepted the challenges, including First AME Church of Los Angeles, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago
and the Progressive National Baptist Convention.

Let's Move! began as a national conversation about the health of America's children after the first lady broke ground for the White House Kitchen garden. At the launch of the campaign, President Barack Obama signed a presidential memorandum creating the first ever Task Force on Childhood Obesity. As suggested by the task force, the campaign focuses on the four points: empowering parents and caregivers, providing healthy food in schools, improving access to healthy and affordable foods, and increasing physical activity.

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