First Lady Michelle Obama was in Mississippi on Thursday, the Associated Press reports, to congratulate the state for a more than 13 percent drop in its child obesity rate. The kudos was not entirely outgoing.
"What's happening here in Mississippi is really what 'Let's Move' is all about," Obama told an audience of state officials, school nutrition professionals, and parents. "It's the story of what you all have achieved here that we want to tell. It's the story we want to be telling in every state all across this country."
Just one small problem. The report that the First Lady was citing as affirmation for the success of her campaign to take the burgers and fries out of the hands of wayward youth tells a slightly different story. A study completed in September of 2012 by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation confirms that the Magnolia State has enjoyed a drop-off in childhood obesity. But the policies that brought rates down from 43 percent to 37.3 percent were largely implemented long before Obama announced her Let’s Move campaign in February or 2010.
From the report comes this:
In 2006, the Mississippi State Board of Education set nutritional standards for foods and beverages sold in school vending machines. The Healthy Students Act of 2007 required the state’s public schools to provide more physical activity time, offer healthier foods and beverages, and develop health education programs.
Starting in 2008, Mississippi’s Childcare Licensure Division helped facilitate the Color Me Healthy program and training classes to create a healthier environment in childcare centers. Mississippi’s Fruits and Veggies–More Matters program reached more than 15,000 residents in 2009 through worksite wellness programs, health fairs, and school events.
The “before” and “after” metrics on childhood obesity were computed in the spring of 2005 and 2011 respectively. It is possible that Let’s Move had some positive impact. But it’s highly improbable that it was responsible for enough of the change for the First Lady to be tooting her own horn.
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