First lady Michelle Obama's new campaign -- Let's Move -- is a commendable effort to combat childhood obesity. Too many American kids eat too many sweets, get too little exercise and spend far too much time gazing at the boob tube. There are many legitimate worries about Washington bureaucrats acting as food police, but the basic aim of this program is one that deserves support. Obama vows to "mobilize public and private sector resources. Let's Move will engage every sector impacting the health of children to achieve the national goal, and will provide schools, families and communities simple tools to help kids be more active, eat better, and get healthy."
To grasp the seriousness of this issue, consider these facts from the White House Web site's description of Let's Move:
"Over the past three decades, childhood obesity rates in America have tripled, and today, nearly one in three children in America are overweight or obese. One third of all children born in 2000 or later will suffer from diabetes at some point in their lives; many others will face chronic obesity-related health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, and asthma. A recent study put the health care costs of obesity-related diseases at $147 billion per year. This epidemic also impacts the nation's security, as obesity is now one of the most common disqualifiers for military service."
Obama first expressed interest in this issue nearly a year ago when she dedicated the White House Kitchen Garden in an effort to encourage a national conversation on children's health. Since then, she has been assembling the pieces of Let's Move and already has racked up some commendable successes. The American Beverage Association, for example, has pledged "to begin putting a clear, uniform, front-of-pack calorie label on all of their cans, bottles, vending and fountain machines within two years." Providing such information is critical to "ensuring parents have the information they need to make healthier choices," the White House said.
The federal government's school lunch program is a major focus of Let's Move, so let's hope the first lady will address the fact that, as USA Today recently reported, 8,500 public schools failed to have their cafeterias inspected even once, while an additional 18,000 failed to satisfy the Child Nutrition Act's minimum inspection requirements. This laxity is a major contributor to the 23,000 cases of foodborne illnesses in public schools reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That agency says many more cases are not reported. Public schools that make their kids sick are hardly the best places to help them get healthier.