What goes through your mind when you get an email inviting you to the White House? Well, the first thought may be, how did I get invited to the White House? And why? I would like to thank SheKnows for giving me this opportunity. It turns out the White House invited leading parenting bloggers and online influencers to a conversation with Michelle Obama about Let's Move and the health of our nation's children on Tuesday March 15th. And, I was included, what an honor! To say I was excited is an understatement.
Next thought.. what to wear? Dressing for the White House when you are a work from home mom blogger is difficult enough, but when 7 months pregnant? Forget about it.. luckily I found something that works and will share more details in an upcoming post.
I prepared for my trip by asking some of my mom friends if they had any questions about childhood obesity they would like to ask the First Lady. They gave me some great thoughts to take on my visit.
I arrived with plenty of time and tried to soak it all in. Visiting the White House is a bucket list item!
Our meeting was in the East Wing and once cleared we had access to walk around and check out the different areas. On the second floor we were immediately greeted by Debra Eschmeyer, Executive Director of Let's Move! and Senior Policy Advisor for Nutrition. She was offering to take pictures for us. She snapped this one for me!
We were here for a conversation about the health of our nation's children and with good reason. Childhood obesity rates in America have tripled in the last few decades and one in three children in America are now overweight or obese. This is an issue that needs to be addressed if we are going to prevent these children from facing diabetes and other health problems in the future.
Let's Move is an initiative created by Mrs. Obama to help solve this problem so that all children can grow up healthier. It's all about empowering parents with helpful information, providing healthier foods in our schools, ensuring that families have access to affordable healthy food and of course encouraging physical activity.
Once settled into our meeting room we heard about several nutrition policy accomplishments from officials within several departments including the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Agriculture, the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition, and the Partnership for Healthier America.
Here are some of the accomplishments achieved in the last six years with Let's Move!
- 1.6 million kids attend healthier daycare centers
- 2 million kids now have a Let’s Move! Salad Bar in their school
- Over 10 million kids attend Let’s Move! Active Schools where they strive to get 60 minutes of physical activity each day
- Over 30 million kids have access to healthier school meals
- Nearly 80 million people live in a Let’s Move! City, Town, or County where kids can walk to school on new sidewalks, participate in a summer meal program, or join an athletic league
- 200 corporate partners have made commitments for a healthier America
We also learned about Every Kid in a Park, an initiative to let every fourth grader and above visit any federal land or national park for free! And, this includes anyone with you so the whole car gets in free. I will be writing a future post just about this but in the meantime you can learn more at their website.
Another fun part of the day was learning about FNV, otherwise known as Fruits and Veggies. In a campaign created by the Partnership for a Healthier America they are working to combat all the advertising we see for junk food. Yes, Fruits and Veggies are a brand now and you can learn more at the Team FNV website.
Throughout our discussions I was impressed with how mom and breastfeeding friendly everything is at the White House. It was mentioned a few times that there are many young mothers on staff, and mothers that were hired while still pregnant. This is not found everywhere, many employers shy away from hiring pregnant women, and here at the White House not only are they mom friendly but extremely breastfeeding friendly. One of my fellow bloggers was allowed to bring her exclusively breastfed infant to our gathering despite it being adult only. There are designated nursing rooms (if needed, you can nurse anywhere) and breastfeeding and taking care of your baby is encouraged. How refreshing! I hope the next administration continues to be encouraging to parents.
We heard from an impressive line of speakers, had a couple of breaks, and a cooking demonstration from the White House chef.
Then it was time for the First Lady! The excitement in the room was tangible.
Mrs. Obama is down to earth, gracious, and a class act. As she thanked us for being there she mentioned the range of subjects we tackle as bloggers and parents and included breastfeeding right there in her opening comments. So exciting!
She explained how she came to care about childhood obesity and the health of our children from her experiences as a mother. You can hear her describe her experience here:
Mrs. Obama spoke about how the point of Let's Move is to make things easier for parents who are doing everything they can to keep their children healthy.
Progress is real. In addition to the accomplishments mentioned above, 97% of schools are meeting new standards and 31 million children are now eating healthier meals. Obesity rates have also stopped climbing.
She spoke to the power we have as consumers and parents and the changes that have already been made:
And if we want to keep seeing better food options for our families, then we need to keep raising our voices and convincing more parents to join us in voting with their wallets. We as parents need to be leading this conversation about kids’ health in this country. So when naysayers claim that we just can’t afford to serve our kids healthy food, it’s up to us as parents to push back and say, “We can’t afford not to give our kids nutritious food.” Because when we’re spending hundreds of billions of dollars treating obesity-related diseases, we simply don’t have the luxury to ignore this issue.
And when folks mock our efforts, it’s parents who need to be out there saying, “Excuse me, but our children’s health isn’t a joke. One third of kids being overweight or obese isn’t funny. Kids being diagnosed with diabetes and high blood pressure at young ages is just not a laughing matter.” This is a serious issue, and we need to be doing something about it.
And, I have to admit I loved hearing her mention our power as parents, bloggers and online influencers:
And you all are such powerful messengers on this issue. You have such an incredible platform. Just the 150 of you in this room alone reach tens of millions of people. Let’s just step back. Just look at yourselves, all the power that you’re wielding right here in this room. Mommy bloggers and the 10 dads, yeah. So don’t ever doubt the difference you all can make, both as bloggers with a national reach, and as leaders in your own family.
Two more videos of her closing thoughts:
We finished our day with a walk to the White House garden. This was an opportunity to explore the grounds, take tons of pictures, and check out the garden that Mrs. Obama planted in 2009 which inspired the start of Let's Move. The garden also houses Monarch and Bee conservancy efforts.
What an incredible day.. I plan to post even more pictures and information in upcoming posts so stay tuned!