First Lady Cites Push for Healthy Produce, Even in Some Liquor Stores

By Penny Starr | September 15, 2010 | 6:38pm EDT

First lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks on childhood obesity, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2010, at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Annual Legislative Conference in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Washington ( – First Lady Michelle Obama told the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Legislative Conference on Wednesday that her “Let’s Move!” campaign to end childhood obesity requires grassroots efforts in communities across the nation, such as planting community gardens and making fresh produce more readily available, including in liquor stores.

Obama cited a group in Detroit as a “wonderful example” of how local communities can make the campaign succeed.

“A group of folks in Detroit offers a wonderful example of the difference that can be made in communities,” Obama said. “With one of the highest obesity rates in the nation, many Detroit residents live at least twice as far from the nearest grocery store as they do to a fast-food restaurant or a convenience store.

“And that’s why a group of community leaders and local churches got together and started what they call ‘Peaches and Greens’ where, five days a week, they drive a truck, like the ‘vegetable man’ – you all heard – remember the truck?” Obama said. “My parents used to talk about it.”

“They drive a truck through the city, selling fresh, affordable produce,” Obama said.  “And they’ve set up a small market. They’ve planted a community garden. They’ve even convinced some of the local liquor stores to stock more fruits and vegetables.”

Obama said in her remarks that 40 percent of African American children are overweight or obese and that nearly one in two will develop diabetes in their lifetime.

As in other speeches promoting the “Let’s Move!” campaign, the first lady referenced the new health care law and how elements of it will help the campaign reach its goals.

“And today, I’m proud that the Department of Health and Human Services has announced that they will be investing $31 million in new grants,” Obama said. “These grants are called – (applause) – they’re calling these grants Communities Putting Prevention to Work.”

“And these grants, made possible through the health care reform law, will go to 11 communities and states across the country,” Obama said. “They will help support innovative programs designed to fight childhood obesity and make our communities healthier.”

She said one of the grants was given to Pitt County, N.C., for making “corner stores” healthier. Another in Santa Clara County, Calif., gives money to a “Rethink Your Drink” campaign to encourage kids to drink more water and milk and less sodas and fruit drinks.

Obama likened the fight against childhood obesity to the civil rights movement and the role black Americans have played in bettering their lives.

“And in the end, that’s what we’re fighting for today,” Obama said. “And that’s why we need you all once again.

“We’re going to need you to add your energy and your passion to this cause,” she said. “We need you to go back home and start the conversation, to roll up your sleeves and get more people involved.

“We need you to once again raise your voices on behalf of our children,” Obama said.

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