Penacook, New Hampshire–(ENEWSPF)–March 9, 2012 – 3:45 P.M. EST
MRS. OBAMA: Thank you, everyone. (Applause.) Thanks so much. Rest yourselves, because you’ve been working hard to make this community healthy. You deserve a little sitting down. Even as we talk about Let’s Move you can rest. (Laughter.)
It is so wonderful to be here. And I want to start by thanking Dr. Lynch, not just for that kind introduction, but for all of the wonderful work, the leadership, the expertise that she is bringing to this state. Just listening to her talk backstage, it is such an advantage to have someone so knowledgeable and aware of these issues at the front lines.
You have a First Lady that understands that health, good health, is the kind of prevention that can change lives, that can change the whole status of communities. And one of the reasons why we’re here is that New Hampshire is a model — the entire state — for what we want to see happening all across this country. So please, let’s give another round of applause to your First Lady. (Applause.) Great work. And she could not do what she does without leadership on the ground.
Mayor Jim Bouley, thank you so much for being here, for the work that you’re doing. It’s tremendous. And I also have to thank Deb Cuddahy, as well. We had some fun times together. I got blue yogurt on my pants. (Laughter.) A little dirt on my knees. But the kids are amazing. Thank you and your entire staff for hosting us here today.
I have to point out that all of these decorations were done by the kids from the center. Correct? Amazing. They are just incredible. We had apples and White House honey and yogurt. (Laughter.) We answered a couple of questions. Someone wanted to know if the President was still alive. (Laughter.) I assured him — (laughter) — I assured the young man that he was in fact alive and well. (Laughter.) I love kids. I mean, we could have talked — Susan and I, we could have spent the entire afternoon with them. They are adorable and they are enthusiastic. They are embracing these concepts. We were working on developing MyPlates and they were picking out their proteins and their vegetables — and they were eating them. (Laughter.) I know, parents, they were eating them — (laughter) — the White House honey, yogurt, apples, bananas. It was just wonderful. So, Deb, thank you. Thank you to the whole team here.
And of course, I want to thank everybody who has taken the time to be here. You all are here for a very important reason. Everything that you just heard from Mayor Bouley, everything that Dr. Lynch is working on, and everything that I’ve seen here at Penacook Community Center all are perfect examples of what we’re trying to accomplish with Let’s Move. We want to show what can happen when communities come together and take action on behalf of our children’s health — because, really, that’s the bottom line. We all care about our kids — every one of us. Regardless of where you live or what you do, we care about our kids, and we want them to be the healthiest that they can possibly be.
Two years ago, when we started Let’s Move, we wanted to end our epidemic of childhood obesity in a generation so that kids growing up today would develop different habits and they would grow up healthier, and they would grow up with the tools and the information they need — would need to make good choices. And when we set this goal we knew it was ambitious. And we knew that we could only reach that goal is if, as Dr. Lynch said, everyone put something on the table, if everyone got involved — everyone from elected officials, like folks here today, to community centers like this one, to moms and dads and community leaders like all of you. We all needed to play a role in getting our kids on track.
And that is why it is so inspiring for me to be here today, because all of you are leading the way in so many — at so many levels. You’ve got a First Lady and a Governor, fortunately, who are working to get people across this state up and walking, taking an active leadership role on this issue, getting the whole state involved, making it a priority from the very top, which is critical. You’ve pulled together folks from all across this community to help make Concord a healthier place to live — the capital of this state. It’s an important leadership point to have the capital taking the lead.
You all are doing wonderful things, like building bike lanes, starting up farmers’ markets, which is critical. And right here in Penacook Community Center, you’ve started a garden, I understand. It’s a little too chilly to be out there, but I’m taking your word for it that it’s good stuff. (Laughter.) The garden to encourage the kids to try new fruits and vegetables and to teach them about where food comes from, as part of what you figure out. Because we had a whole conversation about honey. (Laughter.)
Now, the staff, you guys have work to do, right? Because now they want to know how to — what do you do to put the bees to sleep, how do you get the honey. (Laughter.) A few of them tried a little more of the honey because I think they were wondering how the guy in the hat got the honey without getting stung. (Laughter.) So there’s work to be done. But we left you a lot of honey to help illustrate. So the educational piece in getting kids in there, sleeves rolled up, is critical.
You’re helping kids exercise before and after school with all sorts of activities. We also did the Bunny Hop. (Laughter.) I’m sure that will make the news. (Laughter.) It was something like this, and wiggling your tail in and out. Yes, I did it. (Laughter.) But it was fun. I worked up a little sweat. Probably should have taken my jacket off.
You’re working with parents so that the healthy habits that kids are learning in places like this carry over into life at home. And of course, I cannot forget to mention that you all also were part of history. You helped me and thousands of others break a world record for the number of people doing jumping jacks in a 24-hour period. We are now in the Guinness Book of World Records. And I understand you guys were a part of that. (Applause.) Yes, indeed. So we’re teaching kids that this exercise and good eating stuff can be fun. And that’s really the point. It is truly putting play back into the lives of our children, and that’s a good thing. And you all are doing so many wonderful things.
You’re demonstrating exactly how Let’s Move can work on the ground — taking that theory, that big national concept coming out of the White House, putting it to work right here in communities. So we want to do everything we can to support leaders like you. And again, that’s why I’m here. I mean, one of the things that I have is a big spotlight. Cameras seem to show up. (Laughter.) Hey, guys. It’s nice to see you. (Laughter.) But we get to shine a light on wonderful things that are going on, on the ground, which is really where change is going to happen.
And that’s why we are trying to help, and we’ve tried to start other initiatives connected with Let’s Move. We started Let’s Move Child Care to provide helpful tips on how to give children a healthy start right from the very beginning. Because many of our kids are getting a lot of nutrition; they’re learning their first habits when they go to preschool. And we’ve created a checklist, a very simple checklist with steps that child care providers can take to help their kids eat well and stay active.
We’ve also developed Let’s Move Cities and Towns to give communities the tools they can use to help develop strategies that make sense for them — because that’s one thing we know, that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to this. Communities have to develop the things that work and make sense for them. And Let’s Move Cities and Towns just gives some ideas and gives a little jumpstart to some efforts on the ground.
And we’re working with mayors all across the country who are refurbishing parks and playgrounds, which is critical, because many communities don’t have access to those basic things and we need to support them in those efforts. They’re hosting fun things like cooking and nutrition classes, which are critical; starting up childhood obesity task forces, which help create some unity and coalition around this issue, and so much more.
We’ve also encouraged schools across the country to take part in the HealthierUS School Challenge, through which schools make commitments to serve healthy food and keep their kids active. And we’re trying to encourage more schools to become USHealthier schools. And there are many standards. We’re shining a light on those that reach the gold standard, which means that they are ahead of the curve in terms of bringing in nutritious foods and incorporating nutrition education. We’ve seen those numbers doubled in the time that we started Let’s Move. So that’s been a wonderful thing to watch.
And we’re very excited to team up with leaders like all of you in the efforts that you’re doing as well. So as of today, the Penacook Community Center is joining Let’s Move Child Care. Yay. Way to go. (Applause.) But I can tell from the short time I’ve been here, you guys have been doing the right things already. So we welcome you into the fold and we want you to share those ideas with other centers across the country who are just starting to develop these ideas. So, again, you are a role model.
But also, the city of Concord is becoming the second city in New Hampshire to join Let’s Move Cities and Towns. Yay. (Applause.) And again, that is a huge commitment from the top. Really creating that leadership and setting the tone from the Mayor is an amazing boost to a community already looking to do the hard work. So we commend you.
And the New Hampshire Department of Education will be leading a statewide effort with the goal of signing up 30 new schools for the HealthierUS School Challenge by the end of 2013, and doubling that number by the end of 2015. So we want to help the schools in New Hampshire reach that goal and create as many rewards and incentives for schools to think about ways to make the environment even more healthy for their kids. So we are incredibly proud of everything that’s going on here.
And we hope that these programs can help you find even more ways to make a difference for your community and for your state. And I also want to emphasize that you all are not alone in these efforts. I mean, that’s a part of Let’s Move, too — it can’t just happen on the ground, because kids and families are influenced by so many other aspects of society that we’re trying to use this big umbrella to make some really bigger changes. And we’ve seen some of that going on every day.
For example, Congress has passed groundbreaking child nutrition legislation to help all of our schools in this country be healthier, and its changes in school meals that have — hasn’t happened for decades. So now, beginning in the fall, school lunches — the standards are being raised in ways that will impact schools all across the country.
The food and beverage industry is working to get healthier foods with less sugar, salt, and fat into supermarkets so that parents have healthier options when they go grocery shopping. There’s nothing more frustrating than wanting to do the right thing and then you get to the aisle and you don’t have the choices that you want. So the food and beverage industries are stepping up.
Restaurant chains are offering healthier items on their kids’ menus because we know that many parents are too busy to cook every night, and a lot of times, eating out is the best — and sometimes only — way to get a meal in our kids. But we’ve got some of the largest chains like the Olive Garden and Red Lobster that are creating and updating their kids’ menus so that the healthier choice becomes the easy choice. It’s one of the largest restaurant chains in the world that are stepping up, on their own, to make it easier for parents who walk in those restaurants to have an option for their kids so eating out is not a fight, right? We all applaud that, right? (Laughter.)
But every day, people across this country are coming together on behalf of our children. And it feels good. It feels good to know that when you identify a problem that’s affecting our kids, that so many people — even when it doesn’t help their bottom line — step up in ways big and small. That’s why I started out by saying we all care about our kids. We just need a little guidance and direction to figure out how do we tackle these problems.
But it warms my heart to know that we will step up for our kids. And I am reminded of why this kind of stuff is important. If you listen to a young girl, Caitlin Habel, she is seven years old and she comes here, right? She’s here. Well, this is one of her quotes. She says, “I like being able to play games before school because it’s really fun and it helps me wake up my heart.”
See there — and that’s what we have to remember. That’s what this is really about. Kids will take this and run with it. We all know that about kids. You give them a little information and they’ll take you down a road — they’ll have you eating right and criticizing you when you do something wrong. (Laughter.) It’s a good thing. They want to learn. They want to do the right thing.
And they also learn that vegetables can actually taste good. We’re still working on convincing them of that, so you guys have to agree and be like, yes, yes, vegetables are good. They need to know that running around with their friends can make you feel better — that it’s fun but it’s also good for your heart.
And when kids learn these kind of lessons, the important thing is, is that it stays with them, and that they’ll have this information that they can pass on to their kids and to their kids. So with these efforts, please know that you’re just not changing this generation — the circumstances for this generation of children — you’re changing the circumstances for generations to come. And that’s the power of just a little bit of togetherness — what it can do.
So I am so very impressed and proud. And I hope that other states look here for a model of what can be done when people take ahold of a problem, come together and create solutions that make sense.
So I look forward to working with you all in the months and years ahead — seeing your kids grow up, answering their crazy questions. They’re all so good. They’re all so smart. And they deserve all of this attention and focus that we give them. So congratulations and God bless you all. Take care. (Applause.)
4:01 P.M. EST