At Healthy Kids Fair, First Lady Promotes Awareness Nancy Reagan encouraged kids to "just say no" to drugs. Laura Bush pushed reading and books. Michelle Obama is promoting good health and nutrition, especially among young people. Jocelyn Frye, the first lady's director of policy and projects, and White House chef Sam Kass discuss Obama's plans to press her agenda on a national level.

At Healthy Kids Fair, First Lady Promotes Awareness

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Every first lady has a cause. Nancy Reagan encouraged kids to Just Say No to drugs; Laura Bush pushed reading and books. For Michelle Obama, a top priority is promoting good health and nutrition, especially among young people.

Ms. MICHELLE OBAMA: Believe it or not, medical experts are now warning that for the first time in history of this nation, we're headed for the next generation being on track to have a shorter lifespan than us.

NORRIS: Mrs. Obama sounded that alarm today at a Healthy Kids Fair on the White House lawn. Dozens of children from Washington area schools joined her for some exercise. She did 142 swivels before her hula hoop hit the ground, and they did some healthy snacking, including zucchini quesadillas and baked apples.

Ms. OBAMA: What do you guys think? Thumbs up?

Unidentified Children: Thumbs up.

Ms. OBAMA: All right. Nice.

NORRIS: At events like this, the first lady sounds like first mom, admonishing kids and their parents to make better choices.

Ms. OBAMA: So when vegetables are on your plate, we don't want to hear, I don't want to eat it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. OBAMA: I don't like it. I don't want it. We don't want to hear the whining. We want you to eat it. Just eat it. All right?

(Soundbite of laughter)

NORRIS: Beyond the photo ops, the first lady promises to roll up her sleeves and fight for policy changes to promote healthier eating. Those shifts include raising federal school lunch standards and convincing schools that good eating should extend beyond the cafeteria doors to school snack bars and vending areas.

To learn more about Michelle Obama's plans, I sat down today with White House Chef Sam Kass and with Jocelyn Frye, the director of policy and projects for the first lady.

Frye says the vending machines, per se, are not the target.

Ms. JOCELYN FRYE (Director, Policy and Projects for the First Lady): I think the approach that we've taken is really just to focus on the nutritional standards. I mean, you can have a vending machine with healthy food in it. So I think it's more about the standards of the food that you have in the school and less about the vehicle that you use to disseminate the food. That's why things like nutrition education are also important. And also, the work that Sam has been doing with folks about just having good healthy food.

NORRIS: Some in the food industry are - have a certain amount of trepidation about what the White House is doing. They worry that the White House is wagging a finger at Americans and telling them what they should and what they should not eat. The CEO of Coca-Cola, for instance, said I have never seen it work where a government tells people what to eat and what to drink. He says the government should not be in the business of doing this. Why is he wrong?

Ms. FRYE: Well, I don't think it's a matter of right or wrong. I don't think we're doing it. You know, nobody is telling people what to eat or saying you can't eat certain things. It's more that we really want to have a conversation about children's health.

NORRIS: You know, I don't want to belabor this, but it does seem like you're heading into potentially tricky territory, because if children start making better choices, it means that they're reaching less for salty snacks, for high-fat snacks, for sugary snacks or sugary beverages. And it means that some companies are heading into a less profitable future.

Ms. FRYE: Well, that doesn't - I mean, I'm not the business person, so - but I don't think that's necessarily true. I think that there are certainly companies who have been exploring all sorts of ways to make foods healthier and to address these concerns about healthy eating and still be profitable in what they do. And we're relying on them to do it.

NORRIS: How do you know when you're making a difference?

Mr. SAM KASS (Chef, White House): I think to a certain extent, you know, the first lady has already made a tremendous difference in the increased awareness; people are talking about it. I mean, I think, ultimately, you know you've made a difference when you see health outcomes of kids improving - less childhood diabetes or childhood obesity. So I think, ultimately, that's when you know you've really had a major impact. But there's lots of things on the way that will show that we're headed in the right direction.

NORRIS: Does the first family practice what they preach? How have they changed their diet? Are there fewer French fries and more rutabagas on the menu?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. KASS: We, you know, by and large, try to make the right choices, you know, and try to eat, you know, a balanced simple, just everyday food, then have on occasion, we'll make burgers or tacos or whatever. But absolutely, I mean, they - this is something that they live. We're not doing something off the side that's completely different by any stretch.

NORRIS: So are there - I don't want to call out any companies - but are there potato chips or Cheetos or anything in the pantry? Is that still available if someone wants it?

Mr. KASS: You know, if somebody wants it, they can - you know, people have what they want here.

NORRIS: The president and the first lady are of an age where they probably grew up trying to win a Presidential Physical Fitness Patch. And some of us still remember the trauma of trying to get - and, Jocelyn, I see you laughing there, giggling - trying to master the flexed arm hang so you could get that patch.

(Soundbite of laughter)

NORRIS: And I've heard that this is something that the White House is planning to relaunch, reintroduce. Can you give us some of the details about what's on the horizon?

Ms. FRYE: I can't give you a lot of the details. You know, eventually, you'll see some discussion about that, the fitness council, and the role that it can play not only in our physical fitness, but also healthy eating. The emphasis on - is on trying to do things that are accessible to people.

I mean, I was smiling because I remember things from that fitness test that I couldn't do. And I was frustrated by it. And so, I think our goal with a lot of the work that we've been doing is really to try to make all of this accessible to people.

NORRIS: Sam Kass, Jocelyn Frye, thank you so much for your time.

Ms. FRYE: Thank you.

Mr. KASS: Thank you so much.

NORRIS: That's White House chef Sam Kass and Jocelyn Frye, policy director for First Lady Michelle Obama.

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