Last week, First Lady Michelle Obama told reporters that she would promote breast-feeding, particularly among African-American women, as part of her campaign to reduce childhood obesity. In response, the Internal Revenue Service announced that breast pumps would be eligible for tax breaks. Strangely enough, this simple notion to encourage breast-feeding—which has been shown in many studies to reduce the incidence of childhood obesity and could actually reduce government spending—is the latest idea to be attacked by conservatives. Read more

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act signals a significant change in how we invest in our children and their health. Thanks to the tireless efforts of thousands of people who are working hard to get America’s schools to serve healthier food, including First Lady Michelle Obama, the $4.5 billion “Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act 2010” prevailed in the lame-duck session of Congress, and is being signed into law by President Obama today. The new law marks a key step toward potentially transforming the food served in America’s public schools. Read more

You’ve got to hand it to the food industry. They certainly know how to get the attention of the White House just when they need it most. As announced this week by Michelle Obama herself, the nation’s leading food companies have made yet another pledge, this one in the form of an agreement signed with the Partnership for a Healthier America, an off-shoot of the First Lady’s Let’s Move campaign. Read more

Sixteen of the top U.S. food and beverage manufacturers announced yesterday they will work toward removing 1.5 trillion calories from the American diet annually by 2015, with a total of 1 trillion to be cut by 2012.

The pledge to cut major calories from food products is an agreement between the Partnership for a Healthier America, an independent, nonpartisan organization, and The Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, a coalition of 80 of the nation’s largest retailers, non-profits and food and beverage companies. Read more

When President Obama established a “Presidential task force on childhood obesity” in February, Grist’s Tom Laskawy wondered whether our nation’s first federal food policy council had quietly sprung into being. In a food policy council, the key stakeholders of a region’s food system come together to assess the current food situation and envision ways it might be improved. Food policy councils are a growing phenomenon at the state and municipal level, but such a thing had never existed before at the national level. Does it now?

Well, last week I had the honor of attending the new task force’s White House Childhood Obesity Summit,  and it certainly had the flavors of a food policy council: an array of food-policy players across agencies gathered to discuss a key symptom of a food system gone off the rails: childhood obesity. Read more

It’s a good thing First Lady Michelle Obama is an Ivy-league educated lawyer, because with Let’s Move, her ambitious campaign to end child obesity in a generation, she has waded into a debate that has, since the nation’s founding, been at the center of our national discourse: Individual rights vs. the interests of the state. It’s all under the rubric of improving child health and making healthy food available to all, of course, but Mrs. Obama has spent a lot of time in the past two weeks explaining how her campaign is not treading on Constitutional issues, or personal choice. And that it’s not about government control, but rather about individuals and groups taking responsibility for their own actions, with food choices and health choices. Debates in America about food/agriculture and health are already highly contentious, with a longstanding philosophical divide between those who promote conventional production vs. organic and sustainable production, between the value of local foodsheds vs. transnational sourcing, among other things. Mrs. Obama’s new campaign adds an entirely new portfolio of issues to the discourse. Read more

First Lady Michelle Obama launched Let’s Move: America’s Move to Raise a Healthier Generation of Kids last week with a little help from her friends.

The event was emceed by former NFL superstar and current sportscaster Tiki Barber. Others who came to the podium to help with the kickoff included an accomplished doctor, a Republican mayor, a Democratic mayor, and even an award-winning urban farmer. All were eloquent and insightful, but the real star of the show was a 12 year old named Tammy Nguyen, who introduced the First Lady. Read more

Many kids in the U.S. eat half their daily calories at school. And what a sad, super-size me state of affairs that is in most parts of the country. Highly processed and packaged food laden with sugar, fat, and salt fill in for whole grains, fruit & veg, and protein — you know, the kind of nutrients that might actually help a child learn and stay lean.

Loads of folks have been working their buns off to try and make schools a healthier place for children to eat. Check out Ann Cooper, the self-styled Renegade Lunch Lady, who revamped school lunch programs in Harlem, NY, Berkeley, CA, and now Boulder, CO. Or visit Slow Food U.S.A.’s Time For Lunch Campaign, or Susan Rubin’s Better School Food. And yes, for the record, we know we’re spoiled here in Berkeley with our made from scratch, fresh ingredients lunch menu. We also know what’s going on here is the exception, not the rule.

But maybe that’s about to change. Yesterday, as part of the federal government’s “Let’s Move” launch, the First Lady’s much buzzed about campaign against childhood obesity, Michelle Obama announced plans for a renewed effort to raise the quality of school food, feed more kids, and feed them better. Read more

One of the advantages we enjoy here in Iowa is that we get to see our presidential candidates and their families up close and personal during our caucus process.  While I had seen then-Senator Obama give that stirring speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention, it was really a speech here in Iowa by his wife Michelle that made me a fan of his.  I figured if a lady this smart and classy married him he must be worth a look.

Many of us foodie-activist types were excited when Barack Obama was elected because we believed that maybe finally something could be accomplished for our agenda of “Good, Clean, and Fair” food for everyone.  Sure enough, that first spring there was the First Lady out there planting an organic garden on the White House grounds.  Say what you will about their former opponents, no one could imagine Cindy McCain doing anything even remotely similar. Read more