Obama’s Anti-Child Obesity Initiative Receives Faith, Community Support
At White House, Wilson pledges support for “Let’s Move” goals
BY ANSEL OLIVER
, Assistant director for News, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
he Seventh-day Adventist Church joined some 50 other faith and community organizations November 30 in supporting a national initiative of United States first lady Michelle Obama to fight the epidemic of childhood obesity.
The initiative, “Let’s Move! Faith and Communities,” seeks pledges from organizations to promote exercise, the planting of community gardens to provide fresh food, and other activities contributing to healthful living.
About one-third of children in the U.S. are overweight or obese, Obama told faith and community leaders gathered at the White House in Washington, D.C., about 16 miles south of the General Conference.
“It’s clear that when it comes to ensuring our children’s health and well-being, when it comes to tackling childhood obesity, our faith-based and community organizations have a very critical role to play,” Mrs. Obama said.
FOR HEALTH: U. S. First Lady Michelle Obama participates in a Let’s Move! Faith and Communities conference call with faith leaders in the First Lady’s East Wing Office at the White House on Nov. 29. [Photo: Chuck Kennedy / The White House]
She said this new phase of the previously established Let’s Move initiative would work to support existing programs. “Many of you have been leading the way on this issue for so long...” Mrs. Obama said, referring to faith-based health ministries, exercise clubs and education in “Saturday and Sunday schools.”
The new initiative is comprised of four goals for next year:
- Community and faith-based members walking a total of three million miles.
- Complete 500,000 Presidential Active Lifestyle Awards or establish exercise programs.
- Host 10,000 community gardens or farmer’s markets nationally.
- 1,000 new summer feeding sites nationally.
Several leaders of prominent faith groups expressed support for the goals during the meeting, including Pastor Ted N. C. Wilson, president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, who said he “resonate[d] with the issue personally.” Wilson holds a master’s degree in public health from the church’s Loma Linda University.
“The ‘Let’s Move’ initiative is consistent with our church’s approach to ministering to people physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually,” Wilson said. “It has been shown that Seventh-day Adventists live longer because of their healthy lifestyle.”
He added, “Seventh-day Adventists have extensive educational and health systems in which we promote better health through practical, healthy lifestyles such as balanced nutrition, exercise, drinking enough water, adequate sunlight, abstaining from alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs, fresh air, appropriate rest, and trust in divine power.
“The Seventh-day Adventist Church will do its part to fulfill God’s wish found in 3 John [chapter] 2, which indicates that God wants us to be in physical and spiritual health,” Wilson said.
Katia Reinert, health ministries director for the church’s North American Division, said members would be encouraged to:
- Walk 1 million miles through InStep for Life and other exercise initiatives. Health Ministries will aim to motivate 100 churches walking 10,000 miles a year and at least 10 people per church walking 2.5 miles a day.
- Engaging youth at churches and schools to establish vegetable gardens in the community, with the goal of one garden in each local conference.
- Encourage youth to receive the Presidential Active Lifestyle Awards; at least one award per Adventist school in North America.
- Establish summer feeding programs through Vacation Bible School, summer camps, and community service outreach initiatives.
“I think more than ever the time has come for God’s message of healing and restoration to be heard,” Reinert later said in a statement. “This is a wonderful opportunity to engage our churches and schools to make a positive impact for Christ in our communities on a national level.”
For more information, resources and an initiative tool kit, visit www.letsmove.gov.
--with additional reporting by George Johnson, Jr., North American Division Communication director