The First Lady's Agenda: Healthy Living


By: , SparkPeople Blogger

Historically, first ladies have had their own agendas and things they want to promote while their husbands are in office. For example, Laura Bush championed America's libraries and Hilary Clinton focused on health care reform. One of Michelle Obama's agendas is a focus on healthy living. She believes that fresh and nutritious foods shouldn't just be a luxury for those who can afford them, but rather they should be a staple of every American's diet.

Mrs. Obama is promoting community vegetable gardens and locally grown foods. She's discussing the kinds of healthy dishes White House chefs are preparing for guests and even her own children, since the White House gets fresh fruits and vegetables from farms in Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Last week Mrs. Obama helped serve food at a soup kitchen in Washington that serves only fresh food. Her message was clear: regardless of income level, everyone deserves access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

Mrs. Obama has publicly discussed her and the president's fitness regime and changes to their family's eating habits over the past few years. Although she promotes healthy living, she also lives by the idea of "everything in moderation." She's been known to eat fast food from time to time and feels that it's fine to eat the things you love- within reason. She feels this attitude works well her for family, and also makes them easier for the average American family to relate to.

What do you think about this agenda? Do you think Mrs. Obama's focus on healthy living will make an impact on American families and help people gain better access to quality food? What kind of hurdles do you see (or have you encountered in your own life) when trying to provide fresh and unprocessed foods for all?

UPDATE: The First Lady broke ground on a White House organic garden on March 20!

Photo: PRPhotos
Let's refrain from discussing politics in the comments and focus on the issue of the availability of healthy foods. If you'd like to further discuss politics, you can visit the SparkPeople Cafe or an appropriate Team.

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  • 203
    I'm interested in seeing how her focus pans out. Especially the community gardens. I live in a mobile home park, and although I have a little bit of area in which to grow some food, it's definitely not large enough to make much difference. This year I'm interested in starting with some tomato, pepper, and herb plants to see how it will go.

    I do applaud her efforts. I work in a convenience store that functions as the only "grocery" store for many of my neighbors on food stamps, who cannot make it to a real grocery store. There are absolutely no fresh fruits or vegetables available, and precious little "real" food. What is allowed for purchase on food stamps is sometimes appalling. The majority of "stamp" expenditures include candy, soda, chips, prepackaged sandwiches/burritos, etc. Seldom are any real foods, such as pasta , fruits, veggies (we offer some on these canned), etc. Perhaps with her focus in this area, we may see some improvements. - 3/25/2009   12:34:09 PM
  • 202
    I think it is great that one of the First Lady's (Mrs. Michelle Obama) focus is on nutrition in terms of eating more fruits and vegetables. I think this is where a lot of families especially poor families lack in terms of nutrition. Hopefully this focus will bring about a positive (healthier) change for all Americans. - 3/24/2009   10:39:00 AM
  • 201
    Fresh produce is good, but frozen is also a good healthy option, depending on the situation and season and how much you can or want to spend on food. Even though I can afford to buy eveything only fresh I buy some frozen to save money and also save spoilage. - 3/23/2009   11:14:25 PM
  • GRETCH204
    With the amt of land around the White House, you could feed a good portion of DC! The Obama's veggie garden is a great incentive for regular folks to get in on the gardening movement. I have a small lot and grow veggies in places I used to put flowers. If I could only keep my tomatoes under control! I haven't found a cage yet that will hold them. A few yrs ago my flowers insprired my neighbors to plant their own-I'm hoping my veggies will do the same.
    we do have to do somthing about the price of fresh organics tho. The Farmers mkts in Chicago are great but expensive. I love Whole Foods but only shop there on occasion. - 3/23/2009   10:42:24 AM
    Thank you for the subject, it is a good one. Two of our women leaders in the past year are Michelle Obama and also Sarah Palin. Both of them have healthy body weights and I admire that. They have not given-in to getting super skinny but have womanly curves and that's so appropriate for their age groups (and mine)... very encouraging to see women who are comfortable with themselves, and look it! - 3/22/2009   10:38:07 PM
  • 198
    I admire the First Family's examples. I think they are right on track with our world's current needs. - 3/22/2009   8:46:11 PM
  • 197
    I saw a lot of great commentsand I for one loved the fact that our first lady put a garden on the white house lawn. It sets a great example. Suplement your dollar fast food meals with veggies. If you have a place for big pot you can grow something. I grow mesclun as soon as I can work the soil in my big pots. Other veggies later. - 3/22/2009   12:48:54 PM
  • 196
    I totally agree! I hope that school lunches can be looked at too with this idea. The lunches and breakfasts that are fed to the kids at my school are full of processed everything! They kids are also allowed to buy huge cookies and other sweets. It is a very unhealthy place to eat and some of those kids have no other choice! - 3/22/2009   11:59:32 AM
  • 195
    I think that the first lady is setting a great example and she will inspire more people to look into making healthier food choices. - 3/22/2009   9:47:33 AM
  • 194
    I think more needs to be done so that people can afford to eat healthy! When friends and family of mine are losing their jobs, I think less should be focused on healthy eating when people are struggling to eat period! - 3/22/2009   8:27:34 AM
    I think she has taken on the greatest agenda presenting the most health hazard in the United States. Obesity is not only effecting adults but children as well. It is at epidemic proportions and I blame the Fast Food Industry. Just because it is easier isn't the answer. I applaude Michelle Obama in her efforts and I hope the whole country will be listening. - 3/21/2009   11:58:31 PM
  • 192
    Yes, I think Mrs. Obama's views and their family practices will affect everyone in the nation. I think we underestimate how much the presidential family can change the basic values of the nation by their personal habits and attitudes. I think President Obama's strong values and ethical governance will change the US, even people who are not his supporters. We look to our leaders to guide us in many things beyond politics. - 3/21/2009   11:12:34 PM
  • 191
    She is setting a great example, for eating right and for saving money and gardening is a great hobby that teaches people lots of great things, and it is great all the way round. There are many people that can't afford extras and having a garden is a way to offset a high grocery bill. Eating healthy is not always cheap, but this is a way that makes it more affordable to get your veggies in. - 3/21/2009   10:13:24 PM
    I think the concept of a food kitchen that only serves fresh foods is very interesting. - 3/21/2009   8:42:48 PM
  • CEM1019
    I joined Spark people not necessarily to lose weight but to eat healthier and it has worked. I am a diabetic and I got my blood test results back and my test results were EXCELLENT! I love it that the First Lady has taken this healthy eating approach to lead the country. Our children need this. Thanks for the article. - 3/21/2009   6:18:48 PM
  • 188
    I am very glad to see that she is setting an example for all to follow. Firstly, by starting your own garden, she is teaching you that you can learn to feed yourself, secondly, she is promoting healthy living for all - family, friends, what you eat and exercise and thirdly, regardless of your socio economic status, one can still eat healthily. It certainly would not hurt for us to try following by example.....and a good example at that. Keep up the good work, Michelle!!!! - 3/21/2009   1:36:53 PM
  • 187
    I think that Mrs. Obama is promoting a worthy cause. Looking at America's statistics on obesity, most of us should start eating healthier. When shopping for health insurance, pay attention to the quote. You may be given a higher quote because of your weight. - 3/21/2009   1:19:21 PM
  • 186
    This make so much more sense than baking cookies! It is time for us all to get our hands a little dirty and take a vested interest in our health and the health of our families. - 3/21/2009   12:39:19 PM
  • 185
    I love her focus on this, and I think the new garden is a great way to live what she is promoting. - 3/21/2009   11:08:28 AM
  • 184
    Setting such a wonderful and public example is going to bring the idea of healthy eating to the forefront for the American people. Local gardens are not only providing healthy organic produce, but helping the environment by reducing the need to truck produce from long distances. My neighbors and I are doing a street garden this year, working a large garden in one person's backyard and contributing to the upkeep as well as sharing in the produce. I did a small garden last year and had cucumbers coming out of my ears! Only 1 mound of cukes this year for me. - 3/21/2009   11:07:27 AM
  • 183
    I love the Obama family and think their growing a garden and trying to eat local is very cool. I hope, though, that if Mrs. Obama is really interested in making these foods more readily available, that she's read "The Omnivore's Dilemma." That book, along with Michael Pollan's other awesome book about eating, "In Defense of Food," changed my life.

    I also sort of hope that she'll do a photo-op at the farmer's market I go to here in the DC suburbs... =) - 3/21/2009   10:39:22 AM
  • GENTRY33
    I am thrilled that she is promoting healthly living. What a great example to set. - 3/21/2009   8:36:51 AM
    I have been a organic gardener for 25 years. It is nice not to eat all the chemicals that are in some food at the grocery store. The fact that the First Lady is starting a garden at the white house is a goos idea. The children that are involved will have a good experience to take into their adilt life. - 3/21/2009   6:03:38 AM
  • 180
    I have a little bit of a different perspective because I come from a different country: I don't care about the politics, I think the intention is good. Here, healthy eating is difficult. It isn't affordable. Many people can't afford the apples, let alone Happy Meals. Our summer fruit, of which there is usually a glut, is still at winter prices. Coke is miles cheaper than milk. It' costs less for a family pack of fish and chips than for a family sized pack of lean meat. It's just a sign of the times I guess. - 3/21/2009   4:48:48 AM
  • 179
    Thank you Coach Jen for removing the political & totally inappropriate/off-topic (there's still one down there ranting over school lunch programs) comments and emphasizing the subject of the blog! When I first visited this I left without commenting because of what some were saying.
    I think this is an important and appropriate theme for Michelle to be taking on at this time, specifically BECAUSE it addresses some viable ways even the poorest people have of including better choices in their diets. I know from years when I grew my own gardens how much I saved not only myself, but many of my neighbors as well ... all from a few inexpensive plants and packets of seeds started indoors in late Feb. One year I had corn, several varieties of squash, lettuce, beans, peas, tomatoes, and dozens of herbs (dry/freeze your own and save the $6-8 EACH that you'd pay for those tiny amounts sold in grocery stores)! I was also able to donate cartons full of tomatoes, corn, zucchini, parsley, green onions in particular to a local food pantry/meals on wheels kitchen.

    My biggest obstacle? My concern over the excessive use people in this area make of chemical lawn treatments (fertilizers and pesticides) and the locally required reports I see of run-off from the ground water. This has meant the additional effort of using large earthenware pots and filling them with untreated potting soil instead of planting directly into the ground. This does mean an initially much greater expense, but gives me a bit more peace of mind, especially since discovering some of the ILLEGAL things some of my neighbors dispose of into the ground!

    Finally, given Michelle Obama's legal and professional credentials in her own right, which are nearly if not actually equal to Barack's, I would like to see her become involved in some even more substantive efforts in other areas as well. She's a tremendously intelligent woman with a great deal to offer beyond the "traditionally accepted" things most of the first ladies have taken on in the past. THEN people can choose to politicize what she does if they want ... hahaha! ;) - 3/20/2009   7:06:15 PM
  • 178
    I am so proud of our First Lady, I just heard her talking about this, and hope this tradition will continue for a long time. I live in a little apartment complex, but when I have room to garden, I would love to introduce this to my 8 year old, who already eats much better than I did at his age. - 3/20/2009   6:31:18 PM
  • MUMBLE71
    We need more public figures promoting their healthy lifestyles. Veggies don't have to be expensive- frozen or canned are inexpensive. Yes, fresh is best but not always available.
    Container gardening is a great way to get fresh veggies without a garden- very easy! - 3/20/2009   5:19:15 PM
  • 176
    I love it when a public figure puts actions behind words. Her biceps alone speak volumes. I hope she continues working with soup kitchens and encouraging healthier foods. Maybe she can influence Congress to reform the Farm Act and quit subsidizing processed carbs. - 3/20/2009   4:50:43 PM
  • 175
    I think it is wonderful to set the example of healthy eating. I hope it takes with a lot of people as this nation really needs to do something. Good for her. - 3/20/2009   2:34:13 PM
  • 174
    I think promoting healthy living habits is a great agenda. This society certainly needs it with the high profile of fast foods and oversized meals at restaurants. Low income individuals needs this information made more public and a priority considering that the cheapest foods at the store are more processed and often have very high carloies/low nutritional value. i think promoting community gardens is a great idea that can help in multiple ares by promoting good eating, community connectedness, and sustainable living. I'd love to have a comunity garden in my area! - 3/20/2009   12:51:28 PM
    Looking forward to the outcome. I love to shop at the farmer markets and always find that their produce is fresher than my local supermarkets. It'll be nice to be able to go to my local Stop & Shop and know that the produce sold there was brought in by someone local and not shipped from CA or FL.
    I think that although Mrs. O brings it up, this is something that we can all make a difference at. We need to support our local farmers and go purchase directly from them whenever we can. That'll force all these super stores to purchase from them before they decide that the produce will be better from another country.
    It seems that food is the only thing that we're no off shoring...for now! - 3/20/2009   12:37:21 PM
  • 172
    Go Michelle! I think this is a great agenda to have!! - 3/20/2009   11:56:05 AM
  • 171
    YEAH FIRST LADY!!! I would love to see more initiatives and programs put in place to encourage healthier eating. There's a federal funded program in Nashville that provides a trainer and nutritionist to assist you for 6 months and its FREE!

    My grandparents always had a garden and I would LOVE to start one ... be nice for the community centers to train those who don't know how to start one. I would sign up in a heartbeat! - 3/20/2009   11:13:52 AM
  • 170
    I've planted some veggies for this year. I'd like to do more but am starting small. I want to get some dwarf fruit trees. I'm glad she is focusing on healthy eating. So many think you just have to exercise and that's it. It would be nice if organics were cheapier but their not. I know it's healthier to eat them but when you're talking a couple dollars difference between the two that's a couple more dollars towards diapers and such. I hope her agenda can make things more affordable. - 3/20/2009   11:04:40 AM
  • 169
    Um, isn't that the way it SHOULD be??? Now, if they can make it happen - I'll be watching! - 3/20/2009   12:41:54 AM
  • 168
    Truly a woman that everyone can look up to! - 3/19/2009   9:55:19 PM
    She is a stylish lady! - 3/19/2009   7:15:32 PM
  • 166
    I'm planning on having a garden again this year, I love to grow my own veggies. I try to get the local grown fruits and veggies whenever I can. This time of year in WA state its a bit harder however. My mil grows and freezes tons of veggies every year. - 3/19/2009   6:39:33 PM
  • 165
    Well, Alice Waters is on a crusade to have sustainable vegetable gardens at schools across the U.S. and has been trying to turn the White House into the same type of deal - maybe this will make it happen!!! Instead of the gorgeous White House landscaping, vegetable gardens that provide good food! - 3/19/2009   6:23:48 PM
  • 164
    I'm happy to have someone in the White House fighting to get better food on my plate. Children learn eating habits early on so giving cafeteria's a makeover is a crucial step to changing America's waistline for the better. A food assistance program that gives credits at local farmer's market could be a great way to get fresh food to everyone's table. Can Michelle Obama help us eat better and simultaneously help us decrease our carbon footprint by buying fresh and buying local? I say "yes she can!" - 3/19/2009   6:15:46 PM
  • 163
    Great idea. Good points. I am glad she is championing this and I think it's a great cause. I think it's going to involve a lot more changes like the economy, like ceasing subsidies to these junk food purveyors. As for ending free/reduced school lunch, that to me would be wrong and cruel. My opinion is sure, right now my sons don't need it, but I never know what God has in store for me, and I am happy that there are things in place that will keep us from starving. Everyone's child, again, EVERYONE'S child deserves to be happy and healthy. - 3/19/2009   3:15:16 PM
    I would love to see more healthy foods in all the grocery stores. I buy mostly organic now. The initial cost is higher, but my health is more important and in the long run, obesity and physical damage from chemicals, pesticides and hormones will be more expensive. - 3/19/2009   3:11:58 PM
    let's see, sticking to the topic, maybe fresh and nutritious need to be redefined? - 3/19/2009   3:04:49 PM
  • EDEN30
    Unless the fresh fruits and veggie prices can go down this might be a hard battle. To many of Americans are on a budge these days and turn to un healthy options due to the fact that can afford to pay for Fresh foods that cost more. I would like to see it happen but I think it will take time. And if the prices can be reduced I can see it happening but not now. - 3/19/2009   2:26:00 PM
    It will be interesting to see how many changes the first lady is able to make. There are no decent standards for so called organic farming. Someone commented that their produce goes bad by the end of the week. Maybe you are storing it wrong. Different veggies and fruits give off gases that speed up the rotting in other veggies. ie-don't store onions with potatoes etc. Staying healthy is a lot cheaper than being sick-obese, high BP, diabetes etc. - 3/19/2009   1:17:07 PM
    Do you think Mrs. Obama's focus on healthy living will make an impact on American families and help people gain better access to quality food? What kind of hurdles do you see (or have you encountered in your own life) when trying to provide fresh and unprocessed foods for all?
    I can only hope that Mrs. Obama's agenda will make an impact. However, I see she is going to face the same hurdles that Mrs. Clinton faced when she promoted healthcare. There are a lot of naysayers out there who won't even give it a chance and just say they can't instead of making an attempt. We do need better food in this country and a way of regulating it to keep all the pesticides and chemicals out of it. I agree with a lot of the other posts that it is a little more expensive to eat healthy. But I've found that my family stays healthier when we eat better, so in the long run it's worth it. We've also taken to going shopping twice a week for fresh produce so that we throw out less. - 3/19/2009   12:24:59 PM
  • 157
    We wouldn't need soup kitchens for people to line up for food if restoring jobs were at the top of the "leader's list' ...then Mrs Obama could get her picture opportunities at factory gates shaking the hands of workers as they enter and leave their jobs. As things are now many people cannot afford "good, healthy" food. Let's see some evidence of common sense in our government! - 3/19/2009   11:54:23 AM
    I understand that some people think eating healthy is affordable but it really isn't as affordable as the $1 menu from one of the fast food chains and they all have them. It will cost more to get all fresh veges and fruit for one meal and not have leftovers than it will to feed my family from the $1 menu and not have leftovers. We can get food to cook, canned goods, frozen goods, noodles, and things that aren't considered as fresh but I think most nutritionists teach eating fresh or frozen. Either way, The first lady is correct in her endeavor to promote good eating habits. We've got a long way to go but we'll get there even if we have to grow our own gardens. - 3/19/2009   9:39:26 AM
  • 155
    No matter what your political affiliation ~ you have to admire this lady and her commitment to healthy living. Also I hope my arms have her type of definition some day! - 3/19/2009   12:36:31 AM
  • 154
    Hooray for Michelle. Maybe what she has to try to drive home is the cost of not eating healthy. I've seen a few comments here to the effect that some people can't afford to eat fresh fruits and vegetables. I hope that these same people aren't eating at McDonald's several times a week. If they are, maybe she can use her position to educate them that they would be better off shifting their food dollars.

    Please understand that I am trying to keep politics out of my reply as much as possible, and I apologize if there is anything offensive about it. Please also understand that even though I don't think I am part of the audience she is targeting, this is a concept that I have only learned myself not too long ago.

    - 3/19/2009   12:11:10 AM

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