In snowy Washington D.C. yesterday, despite the weather more than one hundred champions in the battle against childhood obesity gathered in the White House to help First Lady Michelle Obama launch her "Let's Move" campaign, which aims to eliminate childhood obesity within a generation. KaBOOM! CEO Darell Hammond was there, and has been advising the First Lady's office on the importance of unstructured play in keeping children healthy. Let's Move aims to change children's environments so that it's easier to for kids and their families to get active and eat healthy foods.
Commenting about the event Hammond said, "Too often, anti-obesity initiatives only focus on what kids eat. What they do is just as important, so I was excited to see that the First Lady talked about the importance of playgrounds and recess in addition to the importance of access to fresh local food. Studies have shown that letting kids just be kids and letting them play is critical to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight."
For this initiative, Mrs. Obama brought together leaders from non-profits and businesses with governmental, medical, and educational institutions to change both what children eat and what they do. Of particular interest were programs that make communities more active, and increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables, especially in inner cities.
KaBOOM! Playful City USA Mayor Chip Johnson from Hernando, Miss. also took the stage to share his experience with the crowd. In addition to improving parks and playgrounds in his town, and creating joint-use agreements so kids can have access to school basketball courts, he's battling obesity by installing walking trails, and started a farmer's market. Mayor Johnson says that while these initiatives cost some money up front, the state of Mississippi currently spends $982 million on obesity related illnesses, so small investments in healthy living now will produce long-term savings.
Businesses such as school lunch suppliers Aramark, Chartwells Schools Dining Services and Sodexo pledged to reduce the fat, sugar and salt in their meals over the next five years. Companies that make sugary beverages agreed to provide more nutritional information for their products.
Star atheletes are getting involved too, and many will create public service announcements to encourage children to get "60 Minutes of Play a Day." These PSAs will be similar to the "Play 60" PSAs created by long-time KaBOOM! partner the NFL. The NFL most recently worked with KaBOOM! on a grant competition to reward communites who hosted "Play Days" with up to $10,000 in grants towards playground equipment.
“We know that solving our obesity challenge won’t be easy and it won’t be quick, but make no mistake about it — this problem can be solved,” Mrs. Obama said. “This isn’t like putting a man on the moon or inventing the Internet. It doesn’t take a stroke of genius or a feat of technology. We have everything we need right now to help our kids lead healthy lives.”
Today nearly one in three children in America are overweight or obese, setting them up for a lifetime of health problems, such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Let's Move encourages communities to start making improvements on their own, such as getting stores that sell fresh fruits and vegetables and of course, building great places for kids to play.
Please join KaBOOM! and help us make communities across the country healthier and happier by making them more playful.