Happy Birthday, Let’s Move!

February 09, 2011

Pears

McAuliffe School

Happy birthday, Let's Move! This week marks one year since First Lady Michelle Obama began a national conversation about childhood obesity and challenged us to reverse this epidemic within a generation.

“On an issue that some people though was a lost cause, we're seeing more and more reasons for hope,” Mrs. Obama said in a video address marking the anniversary of Let’s Move. Interest in the issue has soared since she launched the initiative, with healthy eating, physical activity and good school food consistently making headlines — and conversations — nationwide.

The First Lady recognizes schools as critical partners in Let’s Move. In the past year, we’ve seen significant change for school wellness at the national level and in our own communities.  

Chef-candace

Chef in the Classroom Day

At the national policy level, president Barack Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum creating the first Task Force on Childhood Obesity to review every program and policy related to child nutrition and physical activity and develop a national action plan of action. In December, Congress passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, reauthorizing the Child Nutrition Act with many excellent policy provisions to support healthy eating in schools. And just weeks ago, the USDA took steps to implement the law by proposing new nutrition standards for the first time in nearly 15 years.

It is exciting to see this policy change at the federal level. But as Mrs. Obama continues to say, real change for children’s health requires all of us — teachers, parents, community members and more — to take action in our own neighborhoods.  

Here at HSC, we partnered with Chicago Public Schools to launch Go for the Gold, a campaign to support schools in meeting the high standards school food, nutrition education and physical activity set by the HealthierUS School Challenge, a key component of Let’s Move.

In 2010, Chicago Public Schools became the first major school district in the US to declare new school menu nutrition standards that meet and exceed the gold standard of the HealthierUS School challenge. This means that more than 400,000 students are trying different fresh vegetables, eating whole grains and seeing other positive changes daily. With new food in place, school leaders are able to focus their efforts on meeting the high standards for nutrition education and physical activity outlined in the challenge.

It’s been incredible to see individuals from across Chicago step forward to be part of this effort:

  • Chefs took their skills and love of food to the classroom to share healthy eating lessons with students on Chef in the Classroom day; many have stayed involved and continue to bring healthy lessons to school!
  • Teachers are coming together to learn techniques for teaching their lessons in healthy new ways — integrating physical activity and healthy eating messages into the classroom on a regular basis — through HSC’s Fit to Learn professional development program!
  • Local policy makers and political candidates are making Let’s Move, childhood obesity and school wellness an increasingly prominent part of their public policy dialogue. Last week, Chicago mayoral candidates made talked about Let’s Move in the context of health and education policy at HSC’s educational forum. (See video online here.)
  • Parents are participating in school wellness teams, advocating for positive changes and learning new skills for healthy cooking at home.
  • Students are helping shape the future of school food by creating healthy, great-tasting school meals as part of Cooking up Change.
  • Civic and business leaders are stepping forward to be part of the movement. Go for the Gold Civic & Business Advisory Committee gold level members include The Chicago Community Trust, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois and Dominick’s. At a school level, the United Fresh Produce Association Foundation and Chiquita Brands International teamed up to to provide salad bars as part of the Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools initiative.
  • Principals from 15 Chicago Public Schools presented their applications for the HealthierUS Challenge at a breakfast hosted by HSC’s Parents United for Healthy Schools. The USDA’s Audrey Rowe traveled from Washington, DC to accept the applications and congratulate the principals and parent leaders. The presentation of HealthierUS School applications by Chicago school principals marks a milestone in the tireless work of community leaders and school administrators to achieve the high standards for school wellness that support such an application.

Of course, these are just a few of the many, many people who have taken remarkable action for children’s health as part of Go for the Gold. Kudos to these impressive individuals for helping make the First Lady’s vision an on-the-ground reality for Chicago’s schoolchildren.

How is your community responding to Let’s Move? We’d love to hear your stories!

Plus: Read Mark Bishop’s blog reflecting on Let’s Move the day after its launch last year!

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Mikva Challenge Teen Health Council members at Go for the Gold launch