The White House

Office of the First Lady

Remarks by the First Lady Before Meeting with Members of Congress and Cabinet Secretaries

Old Family Dining Room

2:36 P.M. EST

MRS. OBAMA:  Well, let's begin -- or briefly begin while we have our visitors here.  But I want to begin just by thanking you all for taking the time to come and join us today. 

As you are probably now more than aware, we're in the process of launching a nationwide effort to dealing with the obesity epidemic in this country.  And as you've seen, as I've been out there, as a parent, this is an issue that I care deeply about and I've spoken about in a very personal level.  But I've learned that there are many parents around this country who are struggling with this issue, who are concerned about it and are looking for ways to help.

But one of the good news -- pieces about this challenge is that this problem is imminently solvable, and that's the good news.  But it's going to require us working together -- not just the administration, but Congress, governors, mayors, parents, teachers.  Anyone who has access to children in their lives is going to have to work together.  And one of the things that's also very clear is that this problem won't be solved by any single federal solution.  This is going to require national action. 

So I'm very excited about the conversation that we're going to have.  The initiative that's going to launch is really going to look at four key areas.  And I talked about these before, but we're going to try to increase the number of healthy schools in this country.  We're going to work hard to increase the level of regular physical activity that kids are getting in this country.  One of the tougher challenges that we need to look at is improving the accessibility and affordability of foods because there are many food deserts in this nation, which makes it difficult for families trying to access good options.  And we also want to do more to empower consumers to make better choices in their own lives. 

So those are roughly the four pillars that we're going to be looking at.  But we know all of you have been committed to this issue, not just for your careers but for a lifetime.  And that's one of the reasons why I'm excited about meeting with you all today.  We have some opportunities in this coming year with the reauthorization of the child nutrition program.  That's going to give the federal government an opportunity to impact more than 30 million kids through that initiative. 

But truly this is an issue that's got to be ground-up, and something that requires bipartisan engagement.  And I'm grateful to all of you for your willingness to sit down with me as we embark on this initiative.

And today I'm really looking for guidance and input, insight, given the experience that you've had over the years, what you've seen on the ground, what you think will work, what we need to shy away from.  All of that is going to be helpful to know before we launch this effort.

So I am very grateful to all of you for your willingness to sit down today.  And with that, I'll open up the conversation.  We'll ask you guys to leave.  (Laughter.)  It's been nice.  (Laughter.) 

END
2:40 P.M. EST

White House Shareables