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War On Obesity: Part 19


 Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP,MACE

In February 2010, Michelle Obama announced her “Let’s Move” or “Healthy Food Financing Initiative” to combat childhood obesity.  President Obama announced that his administration would provide $400 million dollars toward his “Health Food Financing Initiative” run by Michelle Obama. Its goal was to bring grocery stores and healthy food retailers to underserved urban and rural communities across the nation. He would subsidize the purchase of healthy food for the under-served. 

What about the non-underserved communities and its obesity rates?

“The other elements include helping parents make healthy eating and lifestyle choices for their families; serving healthier food in schools; and increasing physical activity among the nation’s youth.”

 By August 2010 in a special session of congress the initiative grew to a $26 billion dollar subsidy distributed to the states.

The increase in funding for the initiative escaped public scrutiny.

“The Democratic congress passed a special session bill that epitomized everything people hate about Congress; a bill to help states was passed with $26 billion in money that was offset with strange accounting measures.”

This was shortly before the November 2010 elections. It was part of President Obama’s scheme to “redistribute wealth.”

Republicans and some Democrats reacted to the size of the initiative. President Obama’s administration moved money from other programs to fund the initiative and claimed the initiative did not increase the deficit.

Nancy Pelosi punted on Democrats’ and Republicans’ calls for debate before voting. The traditional media did not report the controversy.

“The two authors of the letter, Representatives James McGovern (D.-Mass.) and Keith Ellison (D.-Minn.), said, “This is one of the more egregious cases of robbing Peter to pay Paul.” 

The occasional public service announcements by Michelle Obama about the initiative are slick.


 Everyone agrees that obesity is bad for your health and bad for the skyrocketing healthcare costs. The nation’s perception about food and exercise must be changed. The poor and underserved are not the only ones that need to be educated.

America just keeps getting fatter. Obesity has continued to rise even after Michelle Obama started her initiative.

A comprehensive state-by-state report titled 'F as in Fat' shows that obesity rates continue to climb, along with diabetes and high blood pressure.


Two decades ago, not a single state had an obesity rate above 15%. Now all states do have an obesity rate of above 15%. 

“In the last 15 years, the report said, adult obesity rates have doubled or nearly doubled in 17 states. Two decades ago, not a single state had an obesity rate above 15%. Now all states are above 15%.”


The states with the highest levels obesity are states clustered near the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic coasts as well as states along the southern Appalachian Mountains.

Alabama is the state with the highest obesity rate and one of the highest rates of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus at 12.2%.

Twelve states with high obesity rates have had a significant increase in Diabetes as well as hypertension.  In Alabama, the hypertension rate is 33.9%. In Mississippi, the report found that 34.6% of adults have high blood pressure.

 Obesity among African American adults was higher than 40% in 15 states. Among Latinos, it was greater that 30% in 23 states. Latinos with obesity have a higher incidence of Type 2 Diabetes. The incidence is greater than 20% in most states.

In Caucasian adults, obesity rates were higher than 30% in four states. However, any percentage rate of obesity is going to lead to chronic diseases, increased complications of chronic disease and subsequently increased healthcare costs for that person and the state.

Michelle Obama’s initiative is partially correct. There are two vital conceptual errors. The emphasis is on kids in poor neighborhoods. All $26 billion dollars is going to be spent in under privileged communities while the epidemic includes all ethnic and socioeconomic groups.

Most importantly, the parents of the obese children are the drivers of food choices. The change must come from the parents. The parents must be taught to understand the risk of obesity and the consequences of that risk. There are many ways to accomplish this for less than $26 billion dollars.

Anita Dunn was President Obama’s communication director in 2009. President Obama called her one of the most valuable people in his administration. She left the administration and is now the head of SKDKnickerbocker a public relations and lobbying firm.

She has taken on Michelle Obama “Lets Move” initiative by managing a campaign for a group called “the Sensible Food Policy Coalition” The group includes General Mills, Kellogg, PepsiCo, Viacom and Time Warner.

Read that last line again. You get it?


It is easy to visualize why this group of companies would be opposed to eliminating empty calories from kids’ diets. It would mean a lot of lost revenue. Time Warner and Viacom would lose a lot of advertising revenue for its various TV channels advertising junk food to kids if Mrs. Obama’s initiative were successful.


“Consumer groups say the food lobby is aiming to capitalize on Dunn’s connections, particularly among Democrats more sympathetic to nutritional guidelines. The Center for Science in the Public Interest said Dunn and her firm “should be ashamed.”

Dunn dismissed the criticism.

“Without resorting to personal attacks, everybody should be able to work together towards a common goal here,” she said. “At the end of the day, combating childhood obesity is not a question of what gets advertised but a matter of more exercise, healthier eating habits and working together.”

 Ms. Dunn’s statement is lame. It should be about doing the right thing. Unfortunately neither Michelle Obama nor Anita Dunn is doing the right thing.



  • Jenn Graves

    I would love to know where you found the information on the amount of money used to fund Let’s Move ($400M + $26B). I’ve been ardently searching for this data, as I’m trying to get a handle on the overall costs of the “war on obesity” for a piece I’m working on, but have had very little luck. Thank you in advance!

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