REMARKS BY THE FIRST LADY
AT FOOD ICON ANNOUNCEMENT
United States Department of Agriculture
10:57 A.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Good morning, everyone. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you so much. (Applause.) Thank you all so much. (Applause.) Oh, now I get embarrassed, so — (applause) — so please be seated. Thank you so much.
I want to thank Secretary Vilsack for that wonderful introduction and for not taking my remarks. (Laughter.) Well done. And I also want to thank our wonderful Surgeon General, Dr. Benjamin, as well. Both of these individuals are such exceptional leaders for this country and for this issue, so I want to thank them both for everything they do everyday, so let’s give them a round of applause, as well. (Applause.)
And I am also excited that we have such a broad spectrum of people here who have come together to put today’s launch of MyPlate into action. We have representatives from all across the food industry. We have health advocates, we have chefs, educators, we even have an Air Force general. So we’re covering every base.
And this just goes to show that no matter whether we come from the public or private sectors, no matter whether we’ve found ourselves on opposite sides of issues in the past, no matter which box we check on our ballots, all of us care about our nation’s health.
And when we act together, when we focus on our common goals, and when we seriously commit to finding a workable solution for all parties, then we can find consensus. We can agree on something that makes sense for everyone. And most importantly, we can make a real difference for people all across this country.
Now, this day is exactly the kind of day that I was envisioning when we started “Let’s Move” more than a year ago. We started “Let’s Move” because we wanted to make sure that all our kids have the opportunity to grow up healthy. We wanted to end this country’s epidemic of childhood obesity. And we wanted to make it easier for kids and their parents to make choices that will help them lead healthier lives.
In fact, one of the main goals that came out of last year’s White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity report was to simplify the way we convey our nutritional information.
We realized that we needed something that made sense not just in classrooms or laboratories, but at dinner tables and school cafeterias. We needed something useful, something simple.
And that’s why I like the MyPlate approach so much, because when it comes to eating, what’s more useful than a plate? What’s more simple than a plate? This is a quick, simple reminder for all of us to be more mindful of the foods that we’re eating.
And as a mom, I can already tell you how much this is going to help parents all across the country, because when a mom or dad comes home from a long day of work, we’re already asked to be a chef, we’re already asked to be a referee, cleaning crew, you name it, we’re on it. So the last thing we need to do is be the nutritionist in our family, as well.
Parents don’t have the time to measure out exactly three ounces of chicken or to look up how much rice or broccoli is in a serving. That has confounded me as a parent for a very long time. I still don’t know how much protein comes in X number of ounces. And we’re all bombarded with so many dietary messages that it’s hard to find time to sort through all this information.
But we do have time to take a look at our kids’ plates. We do it all the time. We usually are the ones fixing the plates.
And as long as they’re eating proper portions, as long as half of their meal is fruits and vegetables alongside their lean proteins, whole grains and low-fat dairy, then we’re good. It’s as simple as that. That’s how easy this can be for parents.
And this isn’t just useful for parents. MyPlate is a simple tool that’s simple enough for children to understand, even at the elementary school level. Kids can learn how to use this tool now and they can use it for the rest of their lives. Kids follow directions pretty easily, so the MyPlate icon is a wonderful kid-friendly tool. It’s an image that can be reinforced and practiced at breakfast, lunch, and at dinner, no matter how old we are.
And I’ve seen this work in my life already. Since I’ve seen the icon, I can’t help but look at my own plate a little differently to see whether I have enough fruits and veggies. And trust me, we are implementing this in our household. We’ve had a conversation about sitting down with Malia and Sasha and helping them think about how to choose their proportions, and this plate is a huge tool. So I find myself doing a quick checklist to make sure that I have a balanced meal.
And in the months and years ahead, I know that millions of Americans are going to be thinking of the same things at mealtime, as well, because of MyPlate.
So this is something that I am really excited about, because I’m confident that families will find this useful and they’ll find it useful right away. They can start using this today.
But I also know that the new icon isn’t going to end our epidemic of childhood obesity on its own. This is an important start, but it’s not the only thing that we need to be doing. It can’t ensure that our communities have access to affordable fruits and vegetables. That’s still work we need to do. It won’t spur kids to get up and get active for an hour a day. That is still work we need to do. And it’s certainly not going to take the responsibility off of us as parents to make sure that we’re making the right choices for our families. That’s still on us.
So rest assured that “Let’s Move” is going to keep on working on all of those areas. We want to see the same kind of progress that we’ve seen on this icon on all those other areas, and we’re going to build momentum around MyPlate with a coordinated long-term strategy that’s going to include working with community and national partners and connecting with Americans through social media.
So we’re going to be working to get the word out to continue to have conversations about balanced meals and to make this seem fun and simple and not complicated and overburdened.
But I can’t emphasize enough that today is an enormous step in the right direction. Today shows that we can accomplish big things when everyone works together to be part of the solution. And that’s what’s happened in developing this new icon. It shows that all of us are willing to act on behalf of our nation’s health. And particularly we’re willing to step up when it comes to our kids. And it shows that we can do something that makes a difference, something that people can use in their everyday lives.
So again, I am proud and excited about today, but I am also grateful and thankful to everyone who has worked so hard to bring this success to us today. It took a lot of people coming together, working, for many, many months on this effort, and I applaud you all on that hard work. And I look forward to working with all of you as we go forward because there is still so much work to do.
And I know that if we keep working together as we have, if we keep our kids at the forefront of our minds, as we approach these issues, then I know that we can give every single child in this country the healthy futures that they deserve.
So thank you all again. Congratulations. And let’s keep moving. Thank you so much. (Applause.)