Five years after launching Let’s Move, Michelle Obama’s campaign to end childhood obesity is highly visible. She’s danced with Big Bird, with late night television host Jimmy Fallon and has challenged celebrities – via social media – to “give me five.”
Behind the scenes, the first lady has developed strategic partnerships with food industry giants (including Wal-Mart) to reduce sugar, salt and fat in the foods they manufacture and retail. These corporate partnerships have drawn criticism from some, but they have also enabled Obama to “sidestep” a Republican-dominated Congress that is resistant to the administration’s nutrition policies.
With less than two years remaining in her husband’s presidency, can the first lady ensure that the administration’s nutrition policies remain secure? And beyond that, what will be her legacy?
Margo Wootan, the director of nutrition policy at the liberal Center for Science in the Public Interest, a leading health advocacy organization, said it was politically untenable to expect the first lady to publicly denounce a major food company — and she said she appreciated Obama’s efforts to work privately with those companies about making improvements to the food they process.
“She has a celebrity and a status. That’s a carrot for companies to do better. . . . I have plenty of sticks,” said Wootan, whose organization repeatedly has threatened to sue food companies over their marketing practices. “I don’t have many carrots. Her carrot and my stick work together really well.”
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