Hop, Skip, Jump: Michelle Obama Hosts Healthy Kids Fair

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On October 21, First Lady Michelle Obama held a “Healthy Kids Fair” on the South Lawn of the White House. At the event, Obama spoke to children about the importance of healthy eating and physical activity, before moving through different healthy food stations and participating in obstacle courses and games of jump rope. Here, the First Lady is joined on the South Lawn by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

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In her remarks, Michelle Obama said that one of her goals was “to begin to talk about nutrition and to highlight the little ways that each of us can add more healthy fruits and vegetables to our diet, something that I think about all the time as a mother. We felt that this was especially important right now when so many children in this nation are facing health problems that are entirely preventable. So we’ve got our kids who are struggling with things that we have the power to control.”

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“Medical experts are now warning that for the first time in the history of this nation, we’re headed for the next generation being on track to have a shorter life span than us,” she said. “That’s the way we’re going right now. And none of us wants that. None of us wants that for our children and for our children’s futures. Even if we don’t care about ourselves, we don’t want that for our kids.”

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“We want our children to eat right, not just because it’s the right thing to do but because quite frankly healthy good food tastes good and we want them to experience that…But it’s hard to do everything,” the First Lady said. “And when you come home from a long day at work, and the refrigerator is empty, and you know you don’t feel like cooking — the easiest and sometimes the cheapest thing to do is to get in a fast food drive-thru. We’ve all done it because we are overwhelmed and we don’t know what the options are.”

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“And today life is so different from when I was growing up, kids. And I know your parents tell you this,” she said. “I tell my kids this. When I was growing up, fast food was a treat…And we didn’t have dessert every single night. My mother would tell us, ‘Dessert is not a right. It’s a treat.’ So we had it on special occasions. We didn’t have — and I have to tell my kids this — you don’t get dessert every night of the week. Otherwise it’s not a treat; it’s just something that you do…So these are the kind of rules that I grew up with, that all of your moms and your dads grew up with, and these are the kind of rules and boundaries and guidelines that we want to set for all of you.”

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“But in my household, there were no absolutes, right? I mean, we love good food, too,” the First Lady said. “That’s why I always say there’s nothing that the First Family loves more than a good burger, right? And look, my favorite food in the whole wide world are French fries. I love them. Dearly. Deeply. I have a good relationship with French fries and I would eat them every single day if I could. I really would. But I know that if I’m eating the right things — and I tell my girls this — if you’re getting the right foods for most of the time, then when it’s time to have cake and french fries on those special occasions, then you balance it out.

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“Many kids don’t have any access to physical education in the schools — and that’s also something that’s also changed,” she said. “When I grew up — and I went to public schools in my neighborhood — I don’t care what you did; you had recess and you had gym on a very regular basis. So even though we’re encouraging our kids to exercise, if they can’t go to school and that — get the same kind of exercise opportunities, then it makes our jobs as parents harder.”

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“We don’t just want our kids to exercise because we tell them to. We want them to exercise because it’s fun and they enjoy it. And we want them to learn now how to lead good, healthy lifestyles so that they’re not struggling to figure out how to do that when they’re older.”

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“And that’s one of the reasons why we’re here today, because we know that schools can play an important role in the work that we hope to achieve. And that’s why the Department of Agriculture has started this wonderful challenge called Healthier U.S. School Challenge. And the goal of this challenge is to find schools who are going to commit to making fresh healthy food available — we want them to pledge that, that’s part of the challenge — but in addition to making healthy foods available, getting rid of the junk food in the school, making that pledge, get rid of it, but also to be sure that they’re setting aside time for physical activity during the day in the curriculum and teaching kids about healthy food choices during the day.”

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“In our household, no TV during school days. And only a couple hours during the weekend, I’m sorry. But because the TV is off, my girls get up and they move. Even if they’re pushing each other down, they’re running. So we’re going to need you to help your parents. Turn off the TV on your own. Get up and throw a ball. Run around the house. Don’t break anything, but move. Try to go outside if you can.”

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“And of course changing old habits is never easy. That’s why it’s going to take a broader team effort with everyone pitching in, and it’s going to take government doing its part.”

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