First Lady Michelle Obama participates in a Kid Reporter gaggle in the White House Library during the annual Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House, April 21, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
Editor’s Note: This post was written by Justin Creppy who, at 6 years old, is the youngest contributor we’ve ever featured on our site! Justin (pictured in a blue shirt with red tie, right) was invited to the White House on Easter Sunday to be part of a special Kid Reporter event hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama. Read Justin’s story about his experience.
By Justin Creppy
This year I visited the White House for the first time on Easter, and I was one of seven kid reporters to be in the first-ever Kid Reporter gaggle. My day started with so much excitement! I couldn’t wait to get to the White House, but I didn’t know what to expect, so I kept asking mommy and daddy so many questions.
When I arrived at the Northgate I had to be a big boy and give my name and birthdate to the secret service. That was special and fun. I got a badge and entered the White House lawn area. There was so much to see. I walked past the West Wing and I went to the Vermeil Room that had portraits of first ladies. Then I had press time with First Lady Michelle Obama in the White House Library. Her “Let’s Move” program was the focus for the event’s theme, “Hop Into Healthy, Swing into Shape.” When mommy told me what those words meant, I started telling her that I had a bunch of questions for the First Lady. Can I ask her what exercises she does? What sports do Malia and Sasha play? Do they eat healthy every day? My parents told me to pick 2-3 questions I really wanted to ask because this was an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
I was one of the youngest kid reporters, and I got a little nervous when the First Lady entered the room. She was very nice and asked us to sit on the floor and introduce ourselves. I got so excited and asked a question, “First Lady, what do Malia and Sasha do to have fun when you are busy and the President is traveling?” I was happy to learn they are just like all the children in the United States. They like to have fun! Malia plays tennis and runs track. Sasha likes to dance hip-hop and plays basketball. The First Lady also said they like to be normal kids with sleepovers, playdates, and going to the movies.
I also learned so much by listening to the other kid reporters’ questions and learning the importance of eating healthy, being active, and watching only a little bit of television. I had an amazing day, and the First Lady gave all the kid reporters a wristband to enjoy the Easter Egg Roll. I was so happy to see so many kids having fun, running, and playing with their families. I had a fun-filled day that I will never forget!
We’ve all been there, walking through the grocery store while our kids ask us for colorful sodas, chips with cartoon characters on the bag, or cookies advertised on their favorite TV shows. Couldn’t they just once harangue us for a pear, or heaven forbid, some broccoli?
Now parents are getting some back-up – furry, funny back-up to be exact.
“Just imagine what will happen when we take our kids to the grocery store, and they see Elmo and Rosita and the other Sesame Street Muppets they love up and down the produce aisle,” said Mrs. Obama. “Imagine what it will be like to have our kids begging us to buy them fruits and vegetables instead of cookies, candy and chips. That’s what this new collaboration between Sesame Workshop and the Produce Marketing Association is all about.”
Through her Let’s Move campaign, the First Lady has been a longtime advocate for making nutritious foods more appealing, affordable, and accessible.
The fact that Sesame Workshop is licensing Grover, Elmo, Rosita and friends for free is important because unlike a lot of processed food manufacturers, apple, broccoli, and spinach producers don’t have scads of marketing dollars to appeal to our kids in fun commercials or by placing their products in family movies. But the PMA and Mrs. Obama are hoping that when children see a sticker of their favorite Sesame Street character on an apple or next to salad greens they will get more excited about eating a variety of healthy fruits and veggies.
There is research to back this up. Mrs. Obama cited a recent study published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. When researchers gave kids a choice between a cookie and an apple, unsurprisingly the vast majority chose the cookie. But when researchers placed an Elmo sticker on the apple, nearly twice the number of children opted for the fruit.
After the announcement Mrs. Obama, Elmo, and Rosita headed out to the White House vegetable garden where they welcomed students from four area schools to help with the fall harvest. The students dug up giant sweet potatoes, cut pumpkins from their vines, and pulled up dirt-covered carrots. Under the guidance of White House chefs the kids assembled turkey, hummus, and salad wraps. While Elmo and Rosita didn’t share the snack, they extolled their love of fresh produce, already doing their part to encourage kids to eat more fruits and vegetables.
When I was growing up, afterschool was for Skittles, Doritos, and 25-cent juices. When my daughter gets home from school, she pulls the bag of baby carrots out of the fridge and chomps away happily. Times have definitely changed.
If my mother offered carrots as an after school snack, I would have thought that I was being punished. Maybe that’s because she didn’t have as much support as I do. Lucky for me, our First Lady launched the Let’s Move initiative on February 9, 2010, when my daughter was only two years old. That means that I haven’t been the only one introducing her to healthy foods and exercise.
Over the past three years, Let’s Move has inspired schools, childcare providers, and business leaders to improve the health of our nation’s children.
As of January of 2013, more than 10,000 child-care professionals and organizations have registered to implement new criteria for nutrition, physical activity, and limited screen time.
Through Chefs Move to School, 2,400 chefs and nearly 4,000 schools have signed up to work together, teaching kids about healthy eating and helping cafeteria staff prepare healthier meals.
The American Beverage Association has also stepped up and fulfilled their commitment to put clear calorie labels on the front of their products to give consumers better information.
Now, in celebration of Let’s Move’s 3rd anniversary, Michelle Obama has teamed up with Sesame Street’s Big Bird to film two public service announcements encouraging kids to eat healthy and get active.
The new PSAs feature Mrs. Obama and Big Bird in the White House showing kids how easy and delicious it is to eat healthy snacks like fruits and vegetables and demonstrating fun ways to get active like dancing and jumping. Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street, will distribute these PSAs to 320 PBS Stations, Sesame Workshop’s partner channels as part of their Healthy Habits for Life Initiative. The PSAs are also posted on the Sesame Street and Let’s Move! websites.
You can also check out our new story, “Active Learners,” which explains just how physical education classes—which are in danger of being cut from many schools—help children perform better academically.
Interviewing Joe Biden was only one reason I found myself in Washington, D.C., at the White House last week. Earlier that same day, I was among a group of digital editors there to discuss healthy eating and how people use the internet to find recipes for their families. We met with officials from the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA), the Let’s Move! initiative that the First Lady launched, and other White House staffers who are involved in the effort to promote healthy eating habits (and feed the First Family).
The meeting marked the beginning of a partnership between Let’s Move!, PHA, and major magazine and web brands, including Parents and several of our sister brands at Meredith, such as Family Circle, Recipe.com, and AllRecipes.com. The aim is to grow awareness and use of the USDA’s MyPlate nutritional guidelines, and of course, to encourage families to eat healthier. As you may know, MyPlate replaced the classic Food Pyramid and offers a simple-to-use graphic depicting in clear terms the relative proportions of different food types that we should aim to eat. The message it–and this partnership–intends to send is that healthy eating doesn’t need to be more difficult, more expensive, or less delicious than eating unhealthily.
Through this collaboration, you’ll find many delicious, healthy Parents recipes pinned on MyPlate’s Pinterest boards, and you’ll soon see the MyPlate logo on some Parents.com slideshows, offering you an at-a-glance way to know that those recipes conform to these important guidelines for healthy eating.
While a handful of editors at the meeting got to continue the discussion directly with Michelle Obama afterward, the highlight of the event for the rest of us was a tour of the White House garden, conducted by the White House pastry chef, Bill Yosses. In the garden in back of the White House, the staff grows vegetables year-round, and in the middle of February it was amazing to see broccoli and spinach and other greens still growing.
Personally, I was most interested in the White House beehive–yep, their own natural honey machine. Yosses explained how eating locally produced honey can reduce allergies through its trace amounts of local pollen, which get your body accustomed to the allergens it faces in your area. It was also fun to pass by the Obama girls’ swing set!
See some photos from the day:
A shot of the White House garden
Bill Yosses, White House pastry chef, brings us on a tour of the White House garden.
A sign embedded in the garden, with a quote from Thomas Jefferson: “…the failure of one thing repaired by the success of another; and instead of one harvest, a continued one throughout the year.”
In just a few days, Michelle Obama will be traveling to London with the Presidential Delegation to attend the Opening Ceremony of this year’s Olympics. As the leader of the delegation, which includes former Olympians (such as gymnast Dominque Dawes and soccer player Brandi Chastain), the First Lady will visit the U.S. Olympic Training Facility this Friday. In addition, SpongeBob and other celebrities will help host a Let’s Move! event for 1,000 children of U.S. ambassadors. Healthy foods such as nuts, granola bars, and water will be served.
Back in the U.S., the White House (with the help of MeetUp.com) will be hosting a Let’s Move! Olympics Fun Day on Saturday. The goal of Fun Day is to cheer on Team USA and also “turn the Olympic spirit into action” by having different events across the nation. As part of the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) initiative, the White House is committed to get 1.7 million kids moving and to ”inspire a new generation to strive for excellence,” said Michelle Obama. Growing up with fond memories of watching the Olympics, the First Lady believes that “winning isn’t the goal” of the games; instead, it’s being able to “push and believe in yourself” and to refuse to give up despite obstacles.
The competition is divided into two categories: School Programs and Technology Innovation. Teachers, schools, and school districts can enter School Programs by submitting their school’s unique physical activity programs, which can include curriculums, activities, environmental modifications, events, or any other initiatives that are currently being implemented. Regional winners will receive $25,000 prizes and national winners will receive $100,000 prizes.
Technology developers can enter TechnologyInnovation with ideas of how existing and emerging technology can be used to inspire kids to get active. Technology can include devices, tracking and measurement systems, software applications, social media, gaming systems, and smartphones. Winners will receive $50,000 in funding and the chance to present at this year’s Health 2.0 conference.
I just got off a conference call that First Lady Michelle Obama held with editors to talk about what her Let’s Move! initiative has accomplished in the year since it was launched, as well as where it’s going in the year ahead. One of the coolest goals she named for the coming year: to have 6,000 salad bars in 6,000 public schools across the country. On a larger scale, there’s the Healthy Food Financing Initiative, which is designed to help eradicate the food deserts in the U.S.—places where there isn’t easy access to healthy food. This program will, among other things, provide financial incentives to grocery chains so that they’ll open stores in communities where fresh, healthy food is lacking.
In just a few minutes (4 p.m. EST), the First Lady will be giving a speech about these things and more, including how Let’s Move! has affected her as a parent. Click here to watch it live.