The Success of Michelle’s Let’s Move! Initiative

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Becoming" by Michelle Obama. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What inspired Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative? What steps did Michelle take to try to reduce childhood obesity rates?

Michelle was inspired by the success of the White House garden to start the Let’s Move! initiative. The campaign resulted in several victories, including better labeling for sodas and other beverages, a commitment by the suppliers of school lunches to cut fat, sugar, and salt in their meals, and the establishment of a federal task force on childhood obesity.

Keep reading for more information about the Let’s Move! initiative.

The Let’s Move! Initiative 

Michelle’s biggest and most visible success came from the seeds planted in her South Lawn garden. Using the garden as a springboard, Michelle was able to establish a larger initiative for children’s health with the goal of ending the child obesity epidemic. The White House garden was the inspiration for the Let’s Move! initiative.

Despite driving rainstorms and marauding birds and beetles, the garden produced more than 90 pounds of produce in only 10 weeks. The elementary school kids who helped her plant the garden returned to pick and eat the fruits of their labor. Some of the vegetables were served at the Obamas’ dinner table; the rest were donated to a local nonprofit serving the homeless. 

The garden created a lot of positive publicity that Michelle capitalized on to deliver these messages:  

  • Families needed to learn how to feed their children healthier foods. 
  • Grocery stores needed greater access to fresh produce, and it had to be priced so that poor families could afford it. 
  • The food and beverage industry had to stop “supersizing” everything. 
  • Ad agencies had to stop targeting children with commercials for sugary cereals and processed foods. 

Fighting Childhood Obesity

As part of the initiative, Michelle and her staff developed the Let’s Move! campaign to get kids exercising. Michelle hula-hooped on the South Lawn and guest-starred on “Sesame Street” to discuss vegetables with Big Bird. When reporters from health magazines interviewed her, she pointed out that rising obesity levels meant rising health care costs, and many poor Americans didn’t have access to fresh, affordable produce. 

Michelle’s campaign for family health resulted in several victories, including better labeling for sodas and other beverages, a commitment by the suppliers of school lunches to cut fat, sugar, and salt in their meals, and the establishment of a federal task force on childhood obesity. Leaders from professional sports leagues agreed to help promote the “60 Minutes of Play a Day” campaign to get kids exercising more. Disney and Warner Bros. agreed to air special programming aimed at getting kids to live healthier lives. 

Michelle believes she hit her stride with her Let’s Move! campaign. She was able to marshal her leadership and organizational skills to do something that mattered. She now understood the power of being the First Lady: The role offered her a huge media platform. She could use what she saw as the job’s biggest negative—constant media scrutiny—to achieve meaningful goals that would help Americans. 

The Success of Michelle’s Let’s Move! Initiative

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Michelle Obama's "Becoming" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Becoming summary:

  • How Michelle Obama went from the South Side of Chicago to the White House
  • Why much of her success came from her being determined from a young age
  • How Michelle Obama continues to push herself and discover new opportunities

Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

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