Recently I had the honor to visit the White House and see Michelle Obama and her Let’s Move team. Originally I thought it was a roundtable and had prepared some very serious questions, but when I got there I realized I was on a team of 10…but there were about 10 additional teams. It was a bit more of a press event or small summit. But it was incredible to see so many women I have known for years. Some of us have known each other for almost 10 years and I have missed them. After the campaign to label GMOs in California ended, I’ve been dedicating all my resources to educating the public and changing the supermarket one mom at a time. We have been part of a movement that has cleaned up hundreds of products in the supermarket and none of us have slowed down yet.
It’s humbling when the White House comes a calling. But regardless of who invited me, you ladies are my first priority. The health and wellness of your families take precedence over the excitement of the situation. So I wasn’t able to really relax and enjoy myself until AFTER my questions were put out there. And I did get a chance to ask them. But before I go into all that, I’d like to share with you some of the 10 Interesting Wellness Tidbits I learned at the White House.
1. The White House has their own beehive.
The is a picture of the beehive in the White House Garden.
It’s humbly sized, yet serves a powerful purpose. Bees are pollinators and assist in the production of over a third of the fruits and vegetables we eat. In fact, if we lost the bee population, we would have to say goodbye to life as we know it. Humans would cease to survive. It’s more than just about the food we would lose. Bees are responsible for $15 million in crop value. A loss like that could be devastating to the economy. In the U.S. we have lost 40% of the bee population since 2006, and it’s still declining.
In 2014, a 200 square foot pollinator garden was added to the White House to support bees, monarch butterflies and other pollinators as an effort to promote pollinator health. Props to the First Lady for making bees a priority, at least in her garden.
2. Michelle Obama was swarmed by bees not too long ago by the White House Garden.
As I was taking a closeup shot of the bees in the beehive one of the security detail told me a story about how Michelle Obama was recently attacked by the bees in the beehive. They flew close to her and she started swatting at them and they didn’t particularly like that at all. He didn’t want me to get stung and that was why he told me the story. Some of our most amazing creatures are also ones to be feared. I’m highly allergic to bees, so this in particular had me clutching my epi-pen in my purse.
3. The White House is behind one badass marketing campaign about fruits and vegetables called FNV.
If you make fruits and vegetables cool, will more kids eat them? According to the research they did, YES! So the White House and Let’s Move campaign created FNV and enlisted over 25 celebrities in their campaign to promote whole healthy foods like apples, carrots and squash. The celebrity roster includes a mix of athletes, musicians, and actors such as Jessica Alba, John Cena, Nick Jonas, Cindy Crawford, Ryan Weddell, and Kristin Bell to name a few.
Michelle Obama has spoken about the abundance of commercials for unhealthy food, and the lack of advertising for healthy fruits and veg. FNV aims to get the the healthy stuff more attention. It’s no secret that marketing can boost the sales of a product, so why not use it to get more people buying fruits and vegetables? Celebs sell products with their endorsements, so by getting them to endorse healthy foods along with giving fruits and veggies commercials, it will positively impact the sales and consumption of fruits and vegetables. It’s a clever campaign, and it’s long overdue.
4. The White House hasn’t been briefed yet on how endocrine disrupting chemicals are potentially affecting the weight and IQs of children in America.
I asked this question: “I represent Mamavation, a community of over 170,000 moms who are concerned about the impacts endocrine disrupting chemicals like BPA and pesticides are having on our children and the potential of them causing weight gain, infertility, early puberty, cancers, metabolic syndromes like Type 2 Diabetes and lowering IQs. From one mom to another, what more do you feel can be done to protect children? AND would Michelle Obama be willing to meet with Linda Birnbaum, the Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences about how these chemicals are impacting obesity rates of children?”
The answer from her staff was that they have a meeting planned with Linda Birnbaum, the Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences for a debriefing, but not the First Lady. And also, they encourage the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables in the Let’s Move campaign. It didn’t quite address my question and I wonder if The White House is aware that these endocrine disrupting chemicals could be ON the fresh fruits and vegetables, which is precisely why it’s so important to understand the issues and emerging science. And if you are working on obesity issues with children, it’s kind of important to know if the food you are promoting could be inadvertently causing those issues.
5. Michelle Obama thinks all the changes in the food supply and brands cleaning up their act is a GOOD thing!
The First Lady discussed the changes happening with our food supply and acknowledged that moms and bloggers, and specifically MOM BLOGGERS have helped to influence this change in the marketplace. Just in the past few years we have seen the following happen as a result of consumers (basically lots of moms at the grocery store) making healthier decisions and forgoing what they used to purchase :
- Chipotle says no to GMOs
- Panera drops long list of artificial ingredients. Over 150 by end of 2016
- Kraft Mac & Cheese takes out artificial food dyes
- Pepsico removes aspartame and replaces it with sucralose
- Coke & Pepsi take out fire retardants in soda with the removal of BVO
- Hersheys removes GMOs by end of 2015: sugar beets, emulsifiers & artificial vanilla
- Nestle removes artificial colors & flavors from 250 products and 10 brands
- McDonalds is phasing out human antibiotics in chicken within two years
- Tyson removes human antibiotics, etc
- Subway removes azodicarbonamide from their bread
- Duncan Donuts ditches nanoparticles from the whitening agent titanium dioxide
- Yoplait reduces sugar by 25% and removed HFCS and growth hormones in 2009
- Target beefs up organic, Non GMO, locally grown, and gluten free section
- Wendy’s ads organic tea and a veggie burger to their menu
- Taco Bell removes artificial preservatives and additives by 2017
- Papa John’s removes artificial ingredients by 2016
- Starbucks removes artificial color from pumpkin spice
- Kellogg’s removes artificial ingredients by 2018, branded cereals, snack bars & ego frozen foods
- General Mills removes artificial ingredients from cereals by 2017
- Kraft removes artificial preservatives from Kraft singles
- Kelloggs, Mars, General MIlls & Campbells all announce GMO labeling
Long story short, online activism paired with educating moms on better solutions has really moved the marketplace. This isn’t a fad. This is a trend. Food isn’t business as usual. The companies that get onboard with healthier options free from crappy ingredients will survive and the ones that don’t will just lose more marketshare until they can no longer keep their doors open. The choice is theirs, but I know which side I am on. Fight on ladies!
6. There is a single bathroom in the “China Room” next to plates from my dead presidential relative, Grover Cleveland. (Okay, not wellness related but totally funny)
I’m proudly related to one of the worst Presidents we have ever had, Grover Cleveland. He vetoed more than an other president in history and the country was in a severe economic crisis for years after his presidency. This China set from my dead relative was the closest thing to me being in The White House, well until this trip!
While I was in the China Room, I had to pee REALLY bad. You know 3 children and all. I noticed there was a door open in the China Room and inside was a single bathroom. No one was looking so I slipped in and locked the door. Naturally I took a selfie while standing in the bathroom that heads of state used I’m sure. And I’ll always have a giggle. After I got out, the security locked the door IMMEDIATELY. I don’t think I was supposed to pee in there. *snort*
7. The White House is behind Elmo getting licensed on packages of Fruits & Vegetables in Stores
Children are inundated with with $2 BILLION dollars worth of clever advertising from companies selling unhealthy food every year, yet they only see one ad a week for health foods like fruit and vegetables. In an effort to level the playing field, The White House worked to get characters, like Elmo from Sesame Street onto fruits and vegetable. Will that actually help? Well, research showed that kids were twice as likely to choose an apple over cookie when that apple had a sticker of Elmo on it.
In a study published in JAMA Pediatrics relevant to this topic, the number of children who chose apples over cookies doubled when an Elmo sticker was placed on the apple. These findings are a fascinating highlight of an experiment designed by Cornell University researchers who offered an apple, a cookie, or both, to a few hundred 8-to-11-year-old boys and girls. Most children picked the cookie at first, but twice as many chose the apple in a second round with Elmo stickers placed visibly on the fruit. And that finding is consistent with other studies done on predatory marketing practices that are explained in the video below.
8. Michelle Obama’s Road to a Healthier Lifestyle started as a scare at the Doctor’s office
When The First Lady stood up to address us all she shared a personal story about her doctor’s concern over the diet of her family. That’s when she began to swap our unhealthy snacks for fruits and vegetable and cooking more meals from scratch. It’s where her journey and her passion for the cause began. As a mother, she couldn’t fathom not being there for her children because of poor health. Now, as First Lady, she has been able to further the cause with her Let’s Move campaign and the changes she has made in schools. In fact 97% of U.S. schools are meeting the standards Michelle Obama has worked to put in place.
Michelle went on to say that parents have the power to change the marketplace. If we demand better products, companies will make them. “We can’t afford not to give our kids nutritious food,” she said seriously before citing that one third of children are obese. And as for those that mock parents for choosing healthy foods for their families, she boldly says “our children’s health isn’t a joke.” I couldn’t agree more.
9. The White House is Smart Enough to Use Mason Jars to store and serve some of the food
Mason jars an excellent food storage option. It doesn’t leach toxic chemicals like BPA into your foods like some plastics can do. Glass mason jars can store hot or cold foods, they’re easily portable, and easy to prepare things like salad dressings right in the jar you store them in. Less mess and cleanup is always a good thing. The White House is aware of the usefulness of a mason jar and even prepared a mason jar salad.
White House Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford prepared a Tuscan Kale Salad to Go style in Mason Jars. I’m going to share the recipe with you below.
Yield 4 servings; use four 1 Qt. Mason jars with lids
For the Salad:
- 1 bunch Tuscan kale, washed and spun dry
- 1/4 small purple cabbage, shredded, washed and spun dry
- 1 small carrot, peeled and shaved
- 1 small fennel, shaved thin
- 1 cup, candied pepitas
- 1 cup sundried cranberries
- 1/2 cup shaved reggiano cheese
- 1 serrano pepper, shaved thinly
For the Dressing:
- 2 lemons, zest and juice
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 shallot, finely minced
- 1 tbsp. honey
- 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- 4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 can garbanzo beans, drained, and prepared for croutons
- 1 tbsp curry spice mix
In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, zest, garlic, shallots, honey, and vinegar. Incorporate the olive oil slowly and season with salt and pepper. Pour into the bottom of the mason jars equally.
For the salad, cut the clean and spun dried kale into thin strips, set on the first layer of the salad jar. Next divide the shredded equally as well for the next layer of the salad jar. Next divide the shredded cabbage equally as well for the next layer then follow with the carrots and fennel.
Top the salad jar with the pepitas, cranberries, reggiano cheese and, serrano peppers. Close the lid tightly and refrigerate until use. The garbanzo bean crouton can be packed separately to maintain its texture.
To prepare the garbanzo beans croutons, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spread the garbanzo beans on a cookie sheet. Roast until dry and crispy, for about an hour. Toss in the spice and store in a covered container. When ready to eat the salad, shake the jar and place in a salad bowl. Top with crunchy garbanzo croutons.
10. I Submitted More Questions That Were Never Answered or Addressed
We were also given the opportunity to submit questions and were promised some type of answer from the White House. I submitted three questions total:
- I resubmitted my question about endocrine disrupting chemicals because the answer wasn’t really an answer,
- I submitted a question about how we can address real food access and make healthy food more affordable. As in making broccoli cost less than junk food, and
- My final question had to do with junk food marketing to children. Was this something Michelle Obama is in support of?
I’m still waiting to hear back from them on these answers. If you would like to help me in getting some type of response, send them this post and ask them for their response. You can find the Let’s Move Campaign on the following platforms:
I’m still optimistic they will get a hold of me in some way so I can report back to you here. And a big shout-out to Cafe Mom who invited me to be on their blogger team. Thanks guys![/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]