Michelle Obama is stirring up some interest in the mainstream media with her upcoming campaign to fight child obesity, but she’s causing even more anticipation from the associations and companies that may be affected, and may benefit, from her proposals.
Everybody’s waiting for the details,” said Lorelei DiSogra, vice president of nutrition for Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association. “We anticipate it will have a budget and that it will have a legislative component.”
Obama met Feb. 2 with a group of agriculture, nutrition and health leaders from the House and Senate, as well as Tom Vilsak, agriculture secretary; Kathleen Sebelius, health and human services secretary, and Arne Duncan, education secretary.
“There’s a lot of pressure with Michelle Obama getting ready to make an announcement,” said Roxanne Moore, wellness director for Sodexo, a school foodservice provider.
And the first lady will apply a lot of pressure, and not just on Congress, DiSogra said. It’s going to take everyone working together to make it happen, Obama told groups she’s spoken to.
“We’re incredibly excited,” DiSogra said. “From the minute she came in, she’s been talking about improving child nutrition, getting kids to eat more fruits and vegetables, and improving school meals.”
Her timing is likely intentional, with the Child Nutrition Reauthorization act up for approval in the coming months.
“All signs are that it’s going to go in the next three months,” DiSogra said.
Everyone on Capitol Hill knew Obama was working on this, but this month she’s created a build-up to the big announcement starting with a Jan. 20 address to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, then a joint appearance with surgeon general Regina Benjamin and Sebelius Jan. 28, followed by a mention of her initiative by Barack Obama during his State of the Union Address.
“One of her first steps was meeting with congressional leaders, which is what she did yesterday,” DiSogra said. “And what the president said in his budget request Monday (Feb. 1) was very strong for nutrition.”
Barack Obama is asking for $1 billion in new money each year for child nutrition programs.
“There’s never been a president who’s done that,” DiSogra said.
Sebelius said the U.S. spends about $150 billion to fight obesity each year, according to media reports. Michelle Obama has vowed to get businesses, schools, government, nonprofits and families working together on this issue, according to media reports.
Dawn Sweeney, president of the National Restaurant Association, Washington, D.C., said her association is talking with the first lady’s team and trying to work with her on the initiative. Jill LeBrasseur, communications specialist for the Produce for Better Health Foundation, Hockessin, Del., said the association is also eager to work on the initiative.
“We’re hoping that more fruits and vegetables are going to be a big part of that initiative,” LeBrasseur said. “And she’s so well-liked that something she gets behind will get attention.”