The Political Savvy of Michelle Obama's Let's Move! Campaign

By Marion Nestle

On the second anniversary of the campaign to fight childhood obesity, reflecting on how smart it was to target school lunch and food deserts.

main Joshua Roberts RTR2SBCY.jpg

On the occasion of the two-year anniversary of Michelle Obama's Let's Move! campaign, it's time to reflect again on what the campaign means for the White House, for childhood obesity, and for the food movement.

A year later, I summarized some of the campaign's accomplishments. From the beginning, I've been impressed with its smart choice of targets: to reduce childhood obesity by improving school food and inner city access to healthy foods.

I'm reminded of the political savvy that went into the campaign by an editorial in The Nation, "America's First Lady Blues." In it, Ilyse Hogue writes about Michelle Obama's careful treading of the fine line between marital independence and submission, using Let's Move! as an example.

Hogue praises Obama's choice of a target that looks "soft," but is anything but:

In an effort to fit Michelle's role into a traditional profile, the media constantly reminds us that her work is on presumably soft subjects, primarily her hallmark cause to end childhood obesity.... Slurs aside, what critics miss is that this campaign is not aimed at soft targets.

The food and beverage industry is a powerful lobbying force, spending nearly $16.3 million in the 2008 cycle to defeat initiatives -- like a "soda tax" and limits on aggressive advertising aimed at kids -- that would encourage a healthier diet and thus cut into its massive profits.

To tackle childhood obesity, we'll have to confront complicated issues of race, class, entrenched corporate power, and access to healthy food.

Indeed we will. Childhood obesity is a focal point for issues of social justice.

Happy birthday Let's Move! And many more.

Image: Joshua Roberts/Reuters.

TEMPLATEFoodPolitics02.jpg

This post also appears on Food Politics, an Atlantic partner site.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/02/the-political-savvy-of-michelle-obamas-lets-move-campaign/252698/