Another role for the Obamas: social entrepreneurs
Barack backs StartupAmerica, which reduce barriers to smale-scale business innovation. Michelle's ChooseMyPlate promotes healthier eating habits.
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Where these nutritional initiatives could take off, however, is with the distributed and unregulated power of social media. A look at the Twitter hashtag #myplate reveals a preschool teacher who has created a lesson plan using Michelle Obama’s plate recommendations; a CNN health writer engaging in a public, personal challenge to eat according to MyPlate at less than $62 per week; and a foodie blogger who’s made a free, printable, one-page guide to eating according to the MyPlate icon.Skip to next paragraph
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Anti-hunger activist and author Joel Berg told Dowser, “In general I think the MyPlate icon is an advance. I think it’s based on sound science and sound understanding of social marketing. In plain English, it tells people what they should do. It doesn’t scold people or tell them eat less, eat this.”
Berg continued, “But as a solution to widespread obesity in this country – absolutely not. It is an important step and will help with obesity a bit. But there are major reasons why we have obesity and malnutrition – flip-sides of the same coin – the vast majority of which have nothing to do with lack of information about nutrition.”
So what does work, then? What programs are out there that do effectively address malnutrition and obesity?
“For all the hammering over big national problems – that we don’t know what to do – I respectfully suggest that we do know what works,” Berg replied. “I don’t know why people are shocked that spending money to help poor people buy food actually works.”
Berg cited affordability of food, not information about nutrition, as the key to creating a healthier American diet.
“The food stamps program has generally been incredibly effective,” he explained. “People can use their benefits to get fresh produce in New York, and there are similar programs around the country that give people additional money to shop at farmers’ markets. Another project is serving breakfast in the classroom. Having nutritious breakfast in a controlled environment is very effective.”
Here’s a sampling of other organizations that are combating unhealthy eating habits through innovative educational and entrepreneurial efforts:
- Leave It Better – teaching New York City schoolchildren about composting and how to grow their own vegetables as part of science education
- Revolution Foods – bringing healthy meals and nutrition education to schools around the US.
- FruitsAndVeggiesMatterMore – Providing news and educational material about nutrition and providing resources for people to change their eating habits
We can’t rely on government to enact all the social change that we need. But we can be glad that these initiatives are out there and incorporate them into already existing movements to create jobs through entrepreneurship and improve America’s eating habits.