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Michelle Obama and the fight against obesity

Mark Mardell | 07:31 UK time, Tuesday, 9 February 2010

michelle_ap.jpgMichelle Obama is in a tradition of First Ladies who don't want to be simply smiling supporters for their man (Patron Saint, Eleanor Roosevelt). But it is a tricky business, finding something meaty enough to be meaningful without straying too far into controversial preserves of elected politicians a la Hillary.

Mrs Obama has settled for motherhood and less apple pie. The First Lady will today, if you'll pardon the inappropriate expression, put some flesh on the bones of her campaign to slim down the US's kids. A White House event followed by Larry King Live, no less.

She has already warned that America's current young people are the nation's first generation heading towards being less healthy and dying earlier than their parents. She says she wants to "change the health status of an entire generation."
We already know in outline her prescription: more exercise, better school meals, and greater access to healthy foods, particularly in the inner cities. She'll have on hand young athletes, the Watkins Hornets to help her with the former, Will Allen from the group Growing Power for the latter.

The First Gardener obviously wants to lead by example but I am interested to see what the balance will be between exhortation and enforceable prescription.

One online Black magazine, Root, argues it comes down where you tax and spend, not just personal choice. Others suspect it is all a plot by school dinner ladies' unions.

For Michelle of course has another ally beyond the Hornets and Mr Allen: her husband. Before her White House event he is signing a Presidential memorandum on childhood obesity. Again, watch for how far this will go beyond warm words into the deeply political.

In passing, I'm touched some of you noticed my absence last week. Not a hasty trip to Argentina that some suspected but child care, school runs, bedtimes but especially cooking meals.

Michelle, I hope, would approve of their thoughtful preparation and freshness, if not their total calories.


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