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Hunger Games

Michelle Obama's Let's Move! embarrassments

By on 12.2.13 | 3:30PM

First Lady Michelle Obama’s pet project of ending childhood obesity suffered some bad press this weekend, ending what has generally been a bad year for the Let’s Move! program. Richard Simmons in tears, children starving at events, a food stamp slush fund, and changing demographics all suggest that the first lady’s campaign is badly managed.

Let’s start with Richard Simmons. The long-time fitness promoter spoke to the Huffington Post before Thanksgiving, revealing that the Obamas “rejected” his assistance in their fight against obesity. Simmons, who refers to Michelle Obama as “Lady Obama,” said that he sincerely wanted to help with the first lady’s anti-obesity efforts, but his service was not desired. On the verge of crying, Simmons postulated that he is just not the Obamas’ “set of sheets” due to his apolitical nature, though the interviewer suggested that Simmons’s flamboyant personality is what inspired Michelle Obama to reject his help. Simmons is famous for videos such as “Sweating to the Oldies” and owns a fitness studio called Slimmons. In many ways he is like the proto-evangelist of Let’s Move!, a John the Baptist to Michelle Obama’s fat-fighting Christ, so it’s logical that he should be martyred.

Less amusing was earlier in the year when elementary school children at a Let’s Move! event in Chicago went for hours without food. Students were bused into McCormick Place and, at Michelle Obama’s instruction, did not pack meals. The event itinerary consisted of listening to inspirational speeches from Obama and various athletes, photo-ops, T-shirt giveaways, a concert, and exercise. “It seemed like one giant Nike advertisement,” wrote one teacher whose class attended the event. “My students continually came up to me to tell me that they were hungry and ask why this was happening...We were at the mercy of this poorly run event...At 3:52 we finally departed from McCormick Place, exhausted, deflated, and hungry. This event was clearly not about the children, because their needs were not put first.”

Gallup released survey results—just in time for Thanksgiving—which showed that American eating habits have worsened since 2008. The metrics, which include consumption of fruits and vegetables, combine to indicate a decline in the Gallup-Healthways well-being index. Michelle Obama, who claims that Lets Move! is fundamentally shifting the “conversation” on obesity and healthy living, is probably disappointed by this outcome.

And around Thanksgiving time, some families on food stamps learned that their funding was diverted to Let’s Move! The New York Post reminded readers earlier this month that federal money for SNAP (the food stamp program) was reallocated to finance the first lady’s initiative, “the bean-sprout-heavy, $4.5 billion Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.”

After starving children at events, requiring them to exercise on empty stomachs, and then taking their food stamps away, perhaps Michelle Obama should think up a new spin for Let’s Move! Would she consider selecting two children at random from every city, putting them in an arena, and forcing them to fight to the death for a quinoa bar? 

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