Controversial Ads Ask the White House for Stronger Leadership against Junk Food
WASHINGTON—The stalled “Let’s Move” campaign needs to get back in gear, according to striking new advertisements from the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) in Washington, D.C.’s Metro system. The “Let’s Move” campaign has abandoned any major effort to improve the nation’s nutrition, focusing instead on noncontroversial recommendations about exercise. That strategy will not combat skyrocketing rates of childhood obesity, diabetes, and high cholesterol, the doctors say.
Provocative ads went up Aug. 1 in Washington’s Union Station Metro stop, near the U.S. Senate, feature Benjamin, a 6-year-old New Jersey boy who states, “Let’s move hot dogs out of my school lunch.” Sarah, a 9-year-old Georgia girl says, “Let’s move cheese out of my school lunch.” A Pittsburgh family says, “Let’s move milk out of school lunch.”
“The Let’s Move campaign needs to address the causes of obesity in America, not sweep them under the rug,” says PCRM director of nutrition education Susan Levin, M.S., R.D. “Obesity is fueled by the hot dogs, burgers, and junk food that are being fed to children in school and at home.”
The average American now eats 75 pounds more meat per year and 30 pounds more cheese, compared with a century ago. Sugar intake has increased as well. The biggest source of “bad fat” (saturated fat) in the diet is dairy products. In July, PCRM petitioned the U.S. Department of Agriculture to remove milk as a required food group in the National School Lunch Program. Ounce for ounce, skim milk offers almost the same calorie load as soda plus 5 milligrams of cholesterol per serving. Several studies also show that milk does not promote bone health or prevent fractures.
Scientific evidence shows that high-fiber, plant-based foods—including black bean burgers or whole-wheat pasta with marinara sauce—can help prevent obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.
“We greatly respect the first lady for taking on the challenge of ending childhood obesity within a generation,” said PCRM president Neal Barnard, M.D. “To reach that goal, we will need a much stronger program, and these advertisements show a way to make sure the message is clear.” In a letter to Mrs. Obama, PCRM asked that “Let’s Move”push forward of four fronts:
1. Combat the myth that increased exercise can compensate for poor eating habits.
2. Address government subsidy programs that perpetuate less-than-healthful diets.
3. Work with Congress to stop retailers from profiting from sales of junk food under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps.
4. Promote plant-based diets, which have been shown to be more effective than other diets for achieving long-term health and weight control.
The ads direct travelers and Washington policymakers to LetsReallyMove.org.
Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.