The wives of presidents generally use their defacto bully pulpit to lobby the country for changes, and Michelle Obama is no different. To the delight of Bay Area foodies obsessed with sustainability and healthier diets, from Alice Waters and Michael Pollan to former restaurateur and current San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, Obama has taken on the cause of helping to reform America's farming practices and dietary options. And she took that campaign directly to the belly of the beast yesterday at a speech to the Grocery Manufacturer's Association -- including corporations from Cargill that manufactures high-fructose corn syrup to Coca-Cola which peddles it to children. How'd it go?
Obama was self-deprecating, admitting that she was once an enthusiastic purchaser of manufactured foods. "I bought products that were pre-packaged, pre-cut, pre-cooked. If it was 'pre,' I was getting it, because I was looking for anything that was quick and easy to prepare and to consume." Promising not to to push for legislative action, she said her goal was to help parents like herself make better decisions, and urged manufacturers not to hook kids on salt, sugar and fat.
The appearance came on the heels of new statistics showing students who participate in the Federal free-and-reduced price school lunch program are 60 percent more likely to be obese than children who bring lunch from home. Obama brought her "Let's Move!" campaign to the School Nutrition Assocation Conference earlier in the month, even making a national security argument for better diets, telling that audience "one of the most common disqualifiers for military service is actually obesity."
We'll see if Big Food gets the message -- they gave the First Lady a standing ovation at the end of the speech. Pepsi committed to stop selling "full-calorie sweetened drinks" in primary and secondary schools, but executives told Reuters that they have no intention of giving up their own steak dinners. And of course, Nancy Reagan took up the War on Drugs and Hillary Clinton took up health care reform when their husbands were in office, and we all know how those campaigns turned out.