Michelle Obama: ‘That's Why We Start With Kids, Right? We Can Affect Who They Will Be Forever’

By Elizabeth Harrington | October 18, 2011 | 4:45pm EDT

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and First Lady Michelle Obama at a reception for the HealthierUS School Challenge at the White House on Oct. 17, 2011. (White House photo)

(CNSNews.com) - First Lady Michelle Obama said yesterday that the government can affect who kids “will be forever” if it can shape their "habits and preferences" during the large part of the day they are at school.

Mrs. Obama was speaking on the South Lawn of the White House at a reception to honor schools that met the goals of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC). The USDA Web site describes HUSSC as “a voluntary initiative established in 2004 to recognize those schools participating in the National School Lunch Program that have created healthier school environments through promotion of nutrition and physical activity.” The program has since been rolled into Mrs. Obama’s “Let’s Move!” initiative.

“When many kids spend half of their waking hours and get up to half their daily calories at school, you know that with the food you serve and, more importantly, the lessons you teach that you're not just shaping their habits and preferences today, you’re affecting the choices they’re going to make for the rest of their lives,” said Mrs. Obama.

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“That's why we start with kids, right?” she said. “We can affect who they will be forever.”

At the reception, Mrs. Obama praised the 1,273 schools that have doubled the number of students eating federally subsidized meals that fit the program’s criteria.

Among the schools Mrs. Obama praised was the Burlington Elementary School of North Dakota, where, she said, the teachers eat two USDA-approved meals a day with the students.

“And the teachers eat breakfast and lunch with students every single day,” said Mrs. Obama. “Now, that's a sacrifice. You know it. That's love.  They even send out a monthly newsletter called, “Nutrition Notes,” to provide healthy eating tips and recipes for the families.

“You’re affecting not just how these kids feed themselves, but how they’re going to feed their own children,” she said.

“So the beauty is, is that you’re not just making this generation of kids healthier, but the next generation as well. And that is truly, truly powerful stuff,” she said.

Mrs. Obama said that the children trained in these schools may have a trickle-down effect on their families.

“They're changing the way they think about their health and they're trickling that information down to their families,” said the First Lady.

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