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Michelle Obama's Plan for Childhood Obesity

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logo_letsmove.gifThere have been numerous efforts over the years to tackle childhood obesity in this country, but nothing so ambitious as what First Lady Michelle Obama announced on Tuesday. The new initiative she’s spearheading, dubbed Let’s Move, seeks to bring together government agencies and the private sector — basically, anybody and everybody that impacts children’s health — to combat the problem. The ultimate goal: Eliminate childhood obesity within a generation.

No doubt, it’s a sweeping response to a sweeping problem, with one in every three children in this country considered “obese”. As the name suggests, Let’s Move looks to get kids off the couch and moving around. There are many thoughtful food-related proposals, as well.

Expanding access to healthy foods is one of the major themes. Schools, for one, could soon see reform as the new plan looks to update the National School Lunch Program to include more healthy options. Neighborhoods where fresh, healthful food is hard to find, known as “food deserts” (which we wrote about here), are also a focus. Listen up, supermarkets: The administration’s 2011 budget calls for a $400 million investment to bring grocery stores to these underserved neighborhoods. That’d probably include generous tax breaks for any retailers that move in.

The Let’s Move agenda also looks to invest in educating consumers and enhancing transparency at the shelf level. There’s a call for more money to be spent on marketing campaigns, and major media companies like Universal and NBC have already stepped forward and offered to air more public service announcements. And Mrs. Obama announced the Food and Drug Administration will soon begin working with retailers and manufacturers on providing clearer front-of-package labeling.

Supermarkets, with their in-store dieticians and nutrition labeling systems, have been doing their part individually. Now the decision becomes, do they want to join the collective effort? That’s something to mull over. In some cases, like on the education and marketing front, the message stays the same. But others, like the FDA’s proposed front-of-package label changes, could be a harder pill to swallow.

With so many businesses and institutions already signed up for Let’s Move, and given that they can play such a crucial, visible role, supermarkets should go ahead and join the party.

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