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Michelle Obama marks 'Let's Move' milestone with arugula, 'Interlude Dance' (+video)

Michelle Obama started Let's Move to tackle childhood obesity two years ago. Now, she's finishing up a four-state tour to promote the effort – all with a dash of fun thrown in. 

By Staff writer / February 10, 2012

School children reach to greet first lady Michelle Obama during a cooking contest event at the Kleberg-Rylie Recreation center in Dallas Friday to promote her Let's Move initiative.

LM Otero/AP

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Question: What do arugula, a jumping-jack world record, and a giant cake made entirely of fruit have in common?

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Answer: They’ve all been part of first lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative to improve children’s health. Mrs. Obama has been celebrating its two-year anniversary this week with a four-state tour that wraps up on Saturday. 

As the nation’s mover-, shaker-, and garden-grower-in-chief, Obama has helped start a change in the culture around eating and physical activity for the rising generation.

“We’ve started to see some data showing there’s a leveling off of the obesity problem, that it’s not [continuing to] get worse,” says Larry Soler, CEO of Partnership for a Healthier America, a nonprofit working with the private sector and Obama to tackle childhood obesity. “It’s going to take a generation to ultimately solve the problem, but we’ve had a great start.”

At least 8 out of 10 Americans have heard of Let’s Move, according to a recent survey by The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation.

School cafeterias are feeling strong effects from the new level of attention to childhood nutrition.

In Dallas Friday morning, Obama helped judge a chefs’ competition in which three teams raced to make a delicious, healthy lunch in 30 minutes.

The event highlighted the Chefs Move to Schools program, the part of Let’s Move that brings chefs, teachers, parents, and school-nutrition professionals together to create school gardens, salad bars, and educational demonstrations for kids. More than 3,350 schools have signed up so far.

Obama cheered the students for Dallas’s distinction of having the most schools – 78 – earning the Gold Award in the HealthierUS Schools Challenge, which sets high standards for both school nutrition and physical activity. Nationwide, more than 1,500 schools so far have participated in the challenge.

After tasting the teams’ creations – a whole-wheat taco; an arugula, carrot, and avocado salad; and homemade applesauce – Obama and the other chefs declared all the teams winners, according to a newspaper pool report.

Other points of progress in children’s nutrition that her campaign has promoted:

  • Congress passed the Healthier, Hunger-Free Kids Act in December 2010.
  • The USDA released new school meal regulations this January to include more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and to reduce sodium, saturated fat, and trans fats. These were the first significant changes to school meals in 15 years. 
  • More than 2,000 child-care groups and professionals have said they’ll implement new standards for nutrition, physical activity, and limited screen time for young children.
  • Darden, the company that owns restaurants such as Olive Garden and Red Lobster, will now offer a fruit or vegetable and low-fat milk with every children’s meal.
  • Wal-Mart is expanding access to healthy food choices in neighborhoods where they’ve been hard to find.
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