Saturday, June 5, 2010

Michelle Obama in new anti-obesity drive

WASHINGTON - US First Lady Michelle Obama on Friday challenged the maxim that too many cooks spoil the broth -- inviting 500 chefs to the White House to serve up a new initiative in her anti-obesity campaign.

It was a case of out of the kitchen and into the heat, as Obama gathered her guests in the blazing sunshine of the White House Rose Garden to launch a mentoring program which will see chefs adopt local schools.

Chefs will help parents and teachers educate kids about good nutrition and develop healthy menus that meet tight budgets for use in school kitchens.

"Chefs have tremendous power as leaders on this issue because of their deep knowledge of food and nutrition and their ability to deliver these messages in a fun and delicious way," Obama said.

"We can change the future for our children and for this nation," Obama said. "We want you all in every school in the nation."

Obama's program is designed to encourage US schools to improve the quality of school meals, offer more kids more physical activity and education on good nutrition and healthy eating.

"You all know the statistics when it comes to the health of our kids, and they're staggering," Obama said.

"Nearly one third of children in this country are now overweight or obese."

Obama said that parents, teachers and food manufacturers must accept their responsibility to help kids be more healthy -- and head off ailments later in life like diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

"Let me tell you something, my mother didn't know how to cook broccoli, it was watery and mushy... and we thought you could eat it with a spoon," Obama said.

"I know a lot of parents out there are cooking broccoli like that --- it makes it hard to like broccoli if that is how you are cooking it."

A study by leading US health care provider Kaiser Permanente in March showed that more US children are becoming extremely obese at a younger age, putting them at risk of dying decades younger than normal-weight children.

Two retired generals warned the following month that increasing rates of obesity among young Americans could undermine the future of the military, with many potential recruits increasingly too fat to serve.

Earlier this month, Michelle Obama praised US food manufacturers for agreeing to cut 1.5 trillion calories from their products, in a boost for her campaign.

Her initiative aims to rally families, communities, schools, urban planners, politicians and the media to solve the scourge of childhood obesity in a generation.

She points to the urgency of taking action today, at a time when there are already three times more obese children in the United States than 30 years ago.

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