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First Lady Column on Healthy Communities

As we’ve tackled childhood obesity over the past year, we’ve realized again and again that this is not a stand-alone issue. It’s bound up in every issue we face – from health care to education to the way our cities are designed. There’s no one, single answer that will fix it, no magic bullet. So we knew that if we’re going to solve this problem in a generation – and we are – we’d need to come at it from every direction.

And one of the most inspiring things for me is to see that cities across the country are ready and willing to take this approach at their local level. They’re getting folks together – from city hall to the local farmers to the corner stores – to tackle this problem. They’re figuring out what the biggest challenges are for their communities and working together to find the solutions that work for their areas.

Already, more than 470 mayors have signed up for Let’s Move! Cities and Towns, a program designed to encourage leaders to adopt long-term, sustainable, and comprehensive approaches to fight childhood obesity. They’re working with schools. They’re working with businesses. They’re cleaning up parks. They’re starting youth sports leagues. From big metropolitan areas like San Antonio or Philadelphia to small communities with just a couple of stoplights, the message is the same – people from all walks of life are working together to find local solutions.

And we know that one hurdle that many of these communities confront is limited access to healthy foods. Simply being able to buy fresh fruits and vegetables isn’t an option for many Americans. So, we’ve worked hard to better identify these food deserts with a current “Food Atlas.” We’ve advocated for the Healthy Food Financing Initiative, which will get healthy foods to these areas. We’ve worked with the Department of Agriculture to break ground on nearly 600 “People’s Gardens” nationwide. And our outreach to faith communities has led groups to pledge 10,000 new gardens and farmer’s markets, and 1,000 new summer programs to increase food access.

So we’re on our way – but we know that there’s still a lot ahead of us. If we’re going to end the epidemic of childhood obesity, we know it will take everyone, from moms and dads to mayors and business leaders, to do it. But if there’s one thing that always gives me hope, it’s the work that’s going on in communities across this country. I know that if we keep working, keep moving, we can put a stop to this problem once and for all.

(Please feel free to distribute this as part of a newsletter, website post, or to attendees of an event or rally.)