Michelle Obama defended Let's Move!, her anti-obesity program, in an interview released Monday. The first lady was asked to respond to critics of the program, who say the government should not be telling people how to eat–by Topanga Sena, age 11, a reporter for Scholastic News in Florida.
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TOPANGA SENA: How do you respond to critics who say the government should not be telling people how to eat or to stay active?
MICHELLE OBAMA: You know, that’s absolutely right—and Let’s Move! doesn’t do that. Let’s Move! is not about having government telling people what to do, because government doesn’t have all the answers. I mean, a problem that’s this big and affects so many people requires everyone to step up. So we’re asking everyone to do their part. Parents have to make some changes at home, but they need the information to be able to make those choices. And they have to have access to affordable foods in their communities—fresh and healthy foods, right? We need government to do its part, but we need businesses to do their part, as well.
The first lady’s claim that her signature initiative "is not about having government telling people what to do" is not born out by the facts.
In 2010, President Obama signed into law the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, a bill that, according to the White House blog, "was particularly meaningful" to the first lady.
According to a White House fact sheet, the legislation gives government agencies considerable power to regulate what children are allowed to eat at schools.
For example, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act:
- Gives the USDA the authority to set nutritional standards for all foods regularly sold in schools during the school day, including vending machines, the "a la carte" lunch lines, and school stores.
- Sets basic standards for school-wellness policies, including goals for nutrition promotion, education and physical activity, while still permitting local flexibility to tailor the policies to their particular needs.
- Requires school districts to be audited every three years to improve compliance with nutritional standards.
In January 2012, the USDA issued a series of regulations as part of the new law. Michelle Obama unveiled the new meal standards during a guest appearance at a Virginia elementary school. The new rules include:
- Ensuring students are offered both fruits and vegetables every day of the week.
- Offering only fat-free or low-fat milk varieties.
- Limiting calories based on the age of children being served to ensure proper portion size.