First Lady Michelle Obama recently held a news conference of sorts in connection with her “Let’s Move” initiative. Mrs. Obama, you remember, is concerned about childhood obesity and wants kids to eat better and engage in more vigorous exercises on a daily basis.
At first, the show appeared to be somewhat superficial. There she was, probably in the White House garden, leading kids in jumping jacks and talking about freshly grown produce.
As any thinking person realizes, talking to kids about exercise or taking them to an exclusive garden is not going to change anything in the fat department.
First of all, one afternoon of jumping jacks and eating a salad does not a lifestyle make. And observing a garden in a property that is sumptuous enough to support growing vegetables is not the same as finding the time and place for one’s own garden.
Clearly, the initiative for improving the health and fitness of our youth must go a little deeper than that televised news flash offered.
Happily, on deeper investigation, however, it was evident that Mrs. Obama and/or her advisors have indeed reached deeper into the issue.
“Let’s move” has a community component as well as advice for schools.
It addresses an attitude in America that needs to change – an attitude that says “Eat lots of high-fat, high-salt food and sit around a lot.”
The replacement is “Let’s eat healthy because it makes us feel so good, and lets get walking.”
The word to school cafeterias is to transform the menus of the school lunches. Give ‘em apples instead of French fries. The word to the curriculum advisors is to increase rather than decrease physical education.
The implied word to parents is to grow a garden and have the kids help nurture the vegetables.
Indeed, that’s all good advice, but solution has to reach deeper into the fabric of America.
For instance, when corporations have executive meetings, they should stop serving bagels or Danish pastries. Maybe they can carry on business as in the old days, with no food at all in the boardroom. And while they are at it, they can give their employees a break from sitting behind a computer screen for eight hours a day without a break.
Second, it’s all very well to tell schools to increase physical education. But the school boards are now in a difficult situation where they are forced to prime kids for No Child Left Behind tests by sitting them at desks all day while suffering with lowering budgets. Why not abandon this useless “no Child” program and realize that a healthy kid who goes outside to run and play is much easier to educate and will probably do better on academic achievement from that alone.
And while we are on the schools, let’s abandon keeping kids in from recess as a punishment.Going out to recess should be a requirement, not a privilege.
Finally, for families who do not have lawns or the time to nurture a garden, please do not expect them to grow carrots and lettuce in the heart of the city. Too many people work multiple jobs and don’t have the time to garden. Others are lucky just to have a roof over their heads, much less a garden that, for Mrs. Obama, probably has White House caretakers to pull the weeds.
We applaud Mrs. Obama for being on the right track and even for recognizing the complexity of national obesity. But we also recognize that this is a massive problem with many difficult problems to solve. It will take many years and much effort to slim down this nation.