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Michelle Obama Empowers Latino Community at National Council of La Raza Conference

Speaking to over 1,800 attendees at the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Annual Conference yesterday, First Lady Michelle Obama exclaimed, “Food is love… it’s how we pass on our culture and heritage as meals become family traditions and recipes are passed on from generation to generation.”

First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks at the National Council of La Raza annual conference at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, Louisiana, July 23, 2013.  (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

But, said Obama, pointing to health issues like the rise of diabetes, “while food might be love, the truth is that we are loving ourselves and our kids to death.”

Significant racial and ethnic disparities in obesity prevalence among U.S. children and adolescents are a reality. Currently, nearly 40 percent of Hispanic children in this country are overweight or obese. Hispanic kids ages nine to 13 are only half as likely to participate in organized physical activity outside school. And, unhealthy products are being disproportionately targeted towards our nation’s Latino communities.

As the largest national Hispanic and civil rights advocacy organization in the United States, NCLR recognizes that Latino families face higher rates of hunger, food insecurity, and obesity and has taken a leadership role in trying to address these issues. NCLR’s Comer Bien (Eat Well) Initiative encourages the work of the First Lady’s Let’s Move! Initiative, and provides access to nutritious food through federal food assistance programs, resources, and nutrition education to Latino parents and their families. Additionally, NCLR has been a tremendous advocate and partner on key initiatives like MiPlato (MyPlate) and La Mesa Completa (USDA’s SNAP program).

While the First Lady offered much “felicitaciones” for these efforts, her message was clear – we can do more, especially when it comes to what foods we buy and serve our kids.   

“Today, the Latino community’s buying power is more than one trillion dollars – you hear me? Trillion with a “t” – and it’s expected to increase to $1.5 trillion by 2015. So make no mistake about it, with the choices that you make, you all could completely transform the marketplace…you all have the power right now, today. So when companies step up and provide healthy choices…we all need to step up and actually take advantage of those choices.”

Highlighting the influence of the growing Latino community, she offered these final words of advice to attendees: “In the end, we create the demand for these [healthier] products…and it’s up to us to demand quality, affordable food that is good for our kids. But it’s on us.”   

Eager to hear the rest of the speech? Read the First Lady’s full remarks here.