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Michelle Obama Targets Junk Food Ads

Michelle Obama Targets Junk Food Ads


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First lady Michelle Obama continues her quest for getting kids to eat healthier, this time by hosting a summit at the White House yesterday, focusing on food marketing to kids.

The first ever "White House Convening on Food Marketing to Children" brought together representatives from the food and media industries, parents, advocates, and organizations, with Obama asking them to "do even more and move even faster to market responsibly to our kids."

"You see, the average child watches thousands of food advertisements each year, and 86 percent of these ads are for products loaded with sugar, fat, salt. By contrast, our kids see an average of just one ad a week for healthy products like water to fruits and vegetables. Just one ad a week," Obama said in her opening statement.

The issue of healthy eating for kids has been a big one for Obama since President Obama took office; Michelle Obama notes that as a mother, she too finds it difficult to maintain a healthy diet for her kids, although the industry is making slow progress.

"The National Restaurant Association surveyed chefs about trends in their industry, and three of the top 10 trends were specifically about healthy kids’ meals. A survey by the Food Marketing Institute found that 90 percent of grocery stores are offering healthy recipes to their customers, and 98 percent of them maintain health and wellness websites. And today, for the first time in decades, we’re actually starting to move the needle on this issue," Obama said in her opening speech.

And while many may question the efficacy of her plea to advertisers, Obama notes that the issues and questions will continue to be brought up unless something is changed.

"I didn't create this issue and it's not going to go away three and a half years from now when I'm no longer first lady," she said.


Michelle Obama Says It's Time to 'Fight Back' Against Unhealthy-Food Ads

T his week marks five years since First Lady Michelle Obama launched the Let’s Move campaign, which sought to reduce childhood obesity and get kids eating healthier. She’s taken aim at school lunches and encouraged more activity and water consumption. Now she wants more pushback on unhealthy-food advertisements aimed at kids &mdash and celebrities are on board to help.

&ldquoIf folks are going to pour money into marketing unhealthy foods,” she said at an event Thursday in Washington, “then let&rsquos fight back with ads for healthy foods, right? Let&rsquos do this.”

Obama spoke at the Partnership for a Healthier America Summit, where the organization announced the launch of FNV, a marketing campaign laser-focused on branding fruits and vegetables (hence the name &ldquoFNV&rdquo) as cool to youth. The Partnership for a Healthier America, known as PHA, was created in conjunction with the First Lady&rsquos Let&rsquos Move campaign in 2010, though the organization is independent from the White House.

A PHA statement released Thursday details how the campaign will feature appearances from actresses Kristen Bell and Jessica Alba, athletes Stephen Curry and Cam Newton and more.

&ldquoFNV was inspired by big consumer brands, whose tactics are relentless, compelling, catchy and drive an emotional connection with their products,&rdquo said PHA CEO Lawrence A. Soler in a statement. &ldquoWe want to do the same thing for fruits and veggies, which have never had an opportunity to act like a big brand. Until now.&rdquo


First Lady Recites 'Wrap' at 'Let’s Move' Event

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the new rules would eliminate marketing for products that cannot be sold in schools. "If you can't sell it, you ought not to be able to market it," Vilsack said. He said companies spend $149 million a year marketing food and drinks to kids in schools.

Mrs. Obama made physical fitness and healthier eating her signature policies when her husband took office in 2009. She announced the proposed rules on the fourth anniversary of her "Let's Move" childhood obesity program.

The hope is to normalize healthy eating and regular exercise for kids, she said.

"So for them the norm will be fruits and vegetables and not chips and candy," she said. "So hopefully in the grocery market they will be begging us for items from the produce aisle instead of from the snack aisle."

It’s the next step in a process started back in 2006 by former president Bill Clinton’s foundation, which worked with beverage companies to limit school drink sales to water, unsweetened juice and low-fat and nonfat milk, flavored and unflavored, in elementary and middle schools, with the addition of diet and sports drinks in middle schools.

Advocacy groups have been pushing to limit unhealthy snacks and the ads promoting them for years.

"Given the high rates of childhood obesity and children's poor diets, it doesn't make sense to advertise and market unhealthy food to children at all, much less in schools," said Center for Science in the Public Interest nutrition policy director Margo Wootan.

CSPI says that in 2012, 70 percent of elementary and middle school students and 90 percent of high school students attended schools that allowed food marketing, most of it for unhealthy food.

The Federal Trade Commission says the heaviest marketers are candy and snack food manufacturers, beverage companies, and fast-food restaurants, which make use of posters and scoreboards.

They also give students coupons, for instance offering pizza as a prize for students who read a certain number of books, and they place advertisements in school television programs and other educational materials.

California banned sodas and junk food from public schools in 2005 and Connecticut did in 2006, but most states don’t have policies.

“Our priority is supporting the health of kids and they shouldn’t be targeted for the marketing of junk foods and drinks,” said Sam Kass, executive director of Let’s Move.

“Our priority is supporting the health of kids and they shouldn’t be targeted for the marketing of junk foods and drinks."

Ads for junk foods such as candy bars, potato chips and other treats that don’t conform to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Smart Snacks in School guidelines would be banned under the proposed rules. Those recent USDA guidelines limit calories, sugar, and fat content in food sold to students at 100,000 schools. Concessions sold at after-school sports games would be exempt.

Under the proposal, beverage companies could market their branded lines of bottled water, but not sugary soft drinks.

The beverage industry — led by companies Coca-Cola Co., Dr Pepper Snapple Group and PepsiCo — is on board with the move. American Beverage Association President and CEO Susan Neely said in a statement that the changes are is the "logical next step."

"Mrs. Obama's efforts to continue to strengthen school wellness make sense for the well-being of our schoolchildren," Neely said.

The new proposed rules also include a plan to extend the free lunch and breakfast program. Schools that already have a large number of students eligible for free lunch or breakfast will be encouraged to expand it to all students.

"Millions of children showing up to school hungry every day," Mrs. Obama said. "They feel like there’s a stigma with participating in the school breakfast program." The new approach would let all kids get the meals without their parents having to enroll them.

Studies show children perform better academically and have fewer discipline problems if they aren't hungry during the day.

The Associated Press contributed to this article

Maggie Fox is a senior writer for NBC News and TODAY, covering health policy, science, medical treatments and disease.


Michelle Obama Launches Campaign To Feed One Million Families

Former first lady Michelle Obama is kicking off a new campaign to feed families across the country.

According to Good Morning America, she has teamed up with Partnership for a Healthier America for a nonprofit campaign called Pass the Love with Waffles and Mochi. The venture’s goal is to provide over a million meals to families who are struggling, especially during these tough economic times.

In the kick off video, Mrs. Obama said, "It's no secret that the pandemic has made this a tough year. We want to make sure that no matter where you live or how tight your budget, you can access good food for your family."

The campaign will work with partners and donors to raise funds to distribute meal kits curated by food service organization Genuine Foods to families across the nation

The campaign's website reads, "Each box will include high-quality ingredients, and easy, replicable recipes to create three family meals that are fun, fast, and affordable. "All recipes will be inspired by or featured in Waffles + Mochi and will support children participating in the cooking process and earning ingredient badges."

You can support by donating at WafflesAndMochi.org.

Waffles + Mochi is also a Netflix show where the former first lady teams up with puppets to educate children about food.


Michelle Obama dishes on the 3 things Barack knows how to cook

Anyone who dreams of a partner folding omelets in a cast iron pan like a scene out of "Emily in Paris," may not be far off from real life — at least if you're Michelle Obama.

In a recent interview with E! News' Daily Pop, the former first lady caught up on all things food and family following the release of her Netflix show, "Waffles and Mochi." The children's show about food is an extension of Obama's work during her eight years in the White House creating initiatives and campaigns to prevent childhood obesity and promote healthier, whole food in the education system and the country.

Naturally, one of the burning questions about the Obamas and their eating habits was . can Barack cook?

According to Obama, he can and she didn't have to teach him. The Harvard-educated politician came into their marriage 28 years ago with a few go-to recipes he excelled at preparing.

"He came cooking. But he had like sort of his three recipes. He made a mean chili, he could do a good stir fry and great omelets," Obama said about her husband. "So he kind of had his wheelhouse and he stayed in that lane, ya know. But he could cook."

As for Malia and Sasha, who have been spending a lot of time at home during the pandemic, Obama said they too "were curious about cooking" from a young age.

"We had a period when we were really switching from food that you get in a box. We were really trying to make sure our kids were eating fresh food," she said. "So we cleared out our refrigerator, and the one thing that the kids wanted to keep was that boxed macaroni and cheese. They were like 'Mom don't make us throw this out.'"

Obama, like many moms might, made "a deal" with her kids (aka a proposition that ultimately proves the parent's point). She told them if they could figure out how to make the powdered cheese using real ingredients from the kitchen, they could keep the processed version of the cheesy, kid-favorite dish.

According to the advocate and author, her elder daughter Malia gave it her best shot — trying to figure out the process with a little butter knife and some cheese, but couldn't create the processed stuff. After that, they learned to enjoy the goodness of mac and real melted cheese . and Obama knows the secret to make deliciously cheesy dishes.


This Week's Nutrition News Feed

In this week's news: Michelle Obama stumps for kale and more, while the dairy industry shelves its Got Milk campaign obesity rates for young kids nosedive and researchers show why Tetris might be good for your waistline.

Kale -- the nation's perpetually trendy produce item -- took its vegetal celebrity to a whole new level last week, getting the late-night spotlight on the new Tonight Show. If First Lady Michelle Obama doing her best 'tween impression and offering kale chips to a wigs-wearing Jimmy Fallon and Will Ferrell sounds like fun (and it kinda is), then this is for you.

Not that facts like kale's surprisingly high Omega-3 fatty acid levels aren't worth national bandwidth, but it's likely the First Lady's appearance may have been setting the stage for another interesting piece of news: Tuesday, the White House and US Department of Agriculture proposed new school wellness guidelines aimed at cracking down on the marketing of junk food to school children. According to researchers, the problem ain't no small potatoes: Nearly two-thirds of elementary school kids get coupons for fast food in schools, a JAMA study showed last month. "The idea here is simple: Our classrooms should be healthy places where kids aren't bombarded with ads for junk food," Michelle Obama said.

If there was any doubt about why the government is so invested in hitting childhood obesity hard, consider this: Study after study has not only linked chronic disease to obesity but has also shown that the earlier in life an individual struggles with weight, the more likely the problem is to be lasting. This week, federal health authorities reported that over the past decade, obesity rates among 2- to 5-year-olds actually dropped. Not only was it the first broad decline, but the number was also impressive: 43 percent. When asked what was behind the fall, authorities credited a trend toward buying lower calorie food and changes in the special supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and children.

Say goodbye to those milk mustache ads. After 20 years, the dairy industry is dropping the iconic campaign. Between 1975 and 2012, milk sales dropped 25 percent, according to the US Department of Agriculture. Meanwhile, sales of soy, almond and rice milk -- all dairy-free alternatives -- have grown by about 10.9 percent annually since 1999. To counter this trend, the new campaign is moving from healthy bones to stronger bodies and positioning milk as an energy booster. The new tagline? Milk Life.

And you thought Tetris was just for fun. Researchers from Plymouth University have published findings that lend credence to a long-held belief that cravings lean heavily on visual imagery. Publishing in the journal Appetite, the team had volunteers rate their cravings while sitting in front of a Tetris screen, but only some of the participants were allowed to actually play the game. Sure enough, those who played experienced reduced cravings by 24 percent.

It's an age-old question: If spicy things burn our mouths much, why do we keep eating them? This week, the American Chemical Society went multimedia to provide the answer. According to the slick new video, capsaicin and dihydrocapsaicin -- two chemicals inherent to hot foods -- can trick our external sensory receptors to feel like they've come into contact with something hot, like boiled water. They achieve this by binding to a receptor that also reacts to heat. That's the pain part. But then there's the pleasure bit: To help us cope with those uncomfortable sensations, our nervous system counters with endorphins that act a little like morphine. (The menthol in minty things, incidentally, works in the opposite way, binding cooling receptors.)

Sara Reistad-Long writes about science, wellness and lifestyle. She is the co-author of The Big New York Sandwich Book and can be followed on Twitter: @sarareistadlong


Michelle Obama Calls on Media Companies to Limit Junk Food Ads

First lady Michelle Obama used the bully pulpit of a White House event on Wednesday to urge media companies to curb junk food ads and to restrict kids’ TV characters from appearing in spots for unhealthy products.

Obama convened an event of media and entertainment executives, food industry representatives and public interest group leaders to talk about food marketing to children.

Obama said that “those of you from media companies also play a critical role in marketing food to our children, and I want to call on all of you to do your part as well.”

Last year, the Walt Disney Co. announced an initiative to feature only products that meet a set of nutritional standards on children’s programming on its TV channels, radio stations and websites. The first lady singled out the company at the White House event and said that “other media companies can follow suit.”

Obama also urged media companies to use licensed characters to promote healthy food, as is done on “Sesame Street.”

Nickelodeon has not followed Disney in adopting the ban on junk food ads, and one group, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, has targeted the channel for its food advertising.

But Nickelodeon did have a representative at the event, and Obama also singled out a marketing campaign featuring characters from “iCarly” who appeared in ads for Birds Eye Vegetables, resulting in an uptick in sales. A spokesman for Nickelodeon also noted that it has spearheaded initiatives to promote health and wellness, including this week’s Worldwide Day of Play Week, designed to promote health and wellness for kids.

Nevertheless, the first lady focused on ad spots, noting the eight hours, on average, that kids spend in front of screens of some kind.

Obama said that “our kids are like little sponges — they absorb whatever is around them.”

“You see, the average child watches thousands of food advertisements each year, and 86% of those ads are for products loaded with sugar, fat, salt,” she said that the event. “By contrast, our kids see an average of just one ad a week for healthy products like water to fruits and vegetables. Just one ad a week.”

Some 18 food companies, including General Mills, Coca Cola and Kellogg Co., have pledged to advertise only healthier products on children’s programming, or not to engage in any advertising during such shows. The pledge was made to the Better Business Bureau’s Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative.


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"Mrs. Obama's efforts to continue to strengthen school wellness make sense for the well-being of our schoolchildren," Neely said.

Although Mrs. Obama lobbied Congress to pass the school nutrition bill in 2010, most of her efforts in recent years have been focused on the private sector, building partnerships with food companies and retailers to sell healthier foods.

The child nutrition law also expanded feeding programs for hungry students. The rules being proposed Tuesday would increase that even further by allowing the highest-poverty schools to serve lunch and breakfast to all students for free. According to the USDA and the White House, that initiative would allow 9 million children in 22,000 schools to receive free lunches.

The USDA has already tested the program, which is designed to increase participation for students and reduce paperwork and applications for schools, in 11 states.

In addition, the Obama administration will announce new guidelines for school wellness policies. Schools have been required to have general wellness policies that set their own general standards for foods, physical activity and other wellness activities since 2004. But the new rules would require parents and others in the school community to be involved in those decisions.


How Big Food Corporations Watered Down Michelle Obama’s ‘Let’s Move’ Campaign

On Wednesday, First Lady Michelle Obama launched her third &ldquoLet&rsquos Move!&rdquo tour to combat childhood obesity. Before she kicked off the tour in Mississippi, Illinois, and Missouri, Mrs. Obama appeared on &ldquoGood Morning America&rdquo to praise her campaign&rsquos success in changing children&rsquos eating and exercise habits. She also unveiled Let&rsquos Move latest initiative, the MyPlate Recipe Partnership geared toward parents looking for easy, nutritious recipes:

OBAMA: We&rsquove really changed the conversation in this country. When we started, there were a lot of people in this country who would have never thought that childhood obesity was a health crisis. But now we&rsquore starting to see some movement on this issue. Our kids are eating better at school. They&rsquore moving more. And we&rsquore starting&hellipto see rates of obesity coming down like never before.

Childhood obesity rates are indeed showing small declines for the first time in decades, especially in cities with aggressive nutrition policies. As Mrs. Obama pointed out, &ldquoLet&rsquos Move&rdquo has helped call attention to the childhood obesity crisis, and one of her cornerstone achievements was comprehensive school lunch reform that increased funding for public school meals and gave the USDA the ability to regulate foods sold in schools.

Besides school lunch reform, however, &ldquoLet&rsquos Move&rdquo has deliberately veered away from pushing actual legislation, instead focusing on personal responsibility in nutrition and fitness. That&rsquos a very different approach than the one Mrs. Obama took during the inception of her fight against childhood obesity. In 2010, the First Lady gave a fiery speech at a Grocery Manufacturers Association conference, arguing that changing personal habits won&rsquot work if big companies like Kraft and General Mills continue to target children with misleading ads for sugary, fatty food:

This is a shared responsibility. That&rsquos why I&rsquove gone to parents and I&rsquove asked them to do their part. They have a responsibility to watch what their kids eat and teach good habits.[&hellip]And all of you have a responsibility as well.

And we need you not just to tweak around the edges, but to entirely rethink the products that you&rsquore offering, the information that you provide about these products, and how you market those products to our children. That starts with revamping or ramping up your efforts to reformulate your products, particularly those aimed at kids, so that they have less fat, salt, and sugar, and more of the nutrients that our kids need.

As a mom, I know it is my responsibility &mdash and no one else&rsquos &mdash to raise my kids. But what does it mean when so many parents are finding that their best efforts are undermined by an avalanche of advertisements aimed at their kids? And what are these ads teaching kids about food and nutrition? That it&rsquos good to have salty, sugary food and snacks every day &mdash breakfast, lunch, and dinner?

These remarks gave food reform advocates hope that &ldquoLet&rsquos Move&rdquo was taking on processed food manufacturers&rsquo exploitative overuse of sweeteners and fats, a main cause of the obesity epidemic. But a little over a year later, Mrs. Obama backed away from this hard truth and redirected &ldquoLet&rsquos Move&rdquo to focus on exercise and personal fitness &mdash a position favored by processed food companies to divert scrutiny of their products.

The new &ldquoLet&rsquos Move&rdquo also emphasized new corporate partnerships with chains like Walmart, which agreed to open over a thousand new stores in so-called urban &ldquofood deserts&rdquo and pledged to reduce salt, sugar and fat content in their products over five years.

While self-regulating companies can make a big difference, their standards tend to be far more lenient than federal regulations. In 2011, a federal task force drafted voluntary guidelines for marketing food to children only to see them killed by a lobbying blitz by Walt Disney, Nestlé, Kellogg and General Mills &mdash all companies involved in Let&rsquos Move partnerships. Meanwhile, &ldquoLet&rsquos Move&rdquo stayed silent on the proposed standards, despite Mrs. Obama&rsquos earlier condemnation of junk food advertising. A few months later, the First Lady announced a separate agreement with Disney with significantly watered down guidelines to end marketing junk food to kids.

This avoidance of policy change may have something to do with the food lobby&rsquos influence in Obama&rsquos White House. According to a Reuters analysis, 50 food and beverage groups have spent more than $175 million in lobbying since Obama took office, dwarfing the $83 million spent in the last 3 years of the Bush administration.

The new MyPlate Recipe Partnership suggests that even in the post-election season, &ldquoLet&rsquos Move&rdquo will still emphasize personal habits. It doesn&rsquot seem likely that the campaign will attempt to rein in Big Food through regulation anytime soon. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed on Wednesday, the First Lady congratulated &ldquogreat American companies&rdquo like Walmart, Disney, and Walgreens for &ldquostepping up to invest in building a healthier future for our kids.&rdquo


First lady cracks down on junk food marketing

The proposal comes during her week-long celebration for the fourth anniversary of her Let’s Move campaign, which she launched in February 2010 to help combat childhood obesity and ensure all families have access to healthy, affordable food in their communities. Since then, large chain restaurants began offering menus with calorie-conscious options and organizations work to plant gardens outside school buildings. In addition, more than 6,500 American schools have reintroduced exercise into the curriculum, and 90% have implemented new school lunch standards to serve more whole grains, lean protein, and an array of fruits and vegetables.

Obama, who is actively engaged as an advocate for healthy eating, acknowledged the criticism that she receives for fighting childhood obesity and the naysayers who discouraged her before the commencement of her program in 2010. The initiative aims to confirm parents are in control of their children's health, both at home and on school grounds.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture also in 2010 established the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act to reform school lunch and breakfast programs for millions of children.

"If we keep coming together and working together, all of this will be the new norm for the kids of our country," Obama said on Tuesday. "If there is anyone out there who is thinking to themselves, 'Well, in a few years this lady will be gone and this Let's Move thing will finally be over'. you might want to remind them that I didn't create this issue and I'm not the one who is truly driving it forward. All of you are."

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin mocked a proposed soda ban in New York by taking sips from a "Big Gulp" drink during her speech at last year's Conservative Political Action Conference. A court later struck down the idea, mostly promoted by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, declaring that limiting the sizes of soft drinks served in city restaurants is unconstitutional.

Obesity, which affects 17% of all American children and adolescents, is triple the rate now than from one generation ago, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Children who are overweight at a young age are more likely to become obese when they are older, according to a study published last month in the New England Journal of Medicine. Out of the 7,738 elementary-school children observed by experts, 12.4% of them were obese in kindergarten and almost 15% were overweight. By eighth grade, nearly 21% were obese and 17% were overweight.

Obama teamed up with musical celebrities last summer as part of her campaign to create an album that inspires and educates children to eat healthy and exercise regularly.

But overall, Obama said, healthy habits are developing in the country and becoming the new norm, especially in academic buildings.

"Healthy, well-educated kids are more likely to become healthy, well-educated adults," she said, "who will build a productive workforce."

"Roll my chicken in a wrap, don’t jam it in a nugget. Get hyped for healthy snacks, fresh food—we love it!” —The First Lady #LetsWrap

&mdash FLOTUS (@FLOTUS) February 25, 2014

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