CLINTON, Miss. (AP) — Michelle Obama on Wednesday congratulated this Southern state for a more than 13 percent drop in its child obesity rates, saying its example should inspire the rest of the country.
It's the reason she made Mississippi the first stop on a two-day tour to promote her signature effort, the anti-childhood obesity campaign she launched three years ago called "Let's Move."
In remarks at an elementary school near Jackson, the first lady cited new research showing that childhood obesity rates among elementary school pupils in the state had declined by 13.3 percent between 2005 and 2011.
"What's happening here in Mississippi is really what 'Let's Move' is all about," she told an audience of state officials, school nutrition professionals and parents. She urged them to keep on doing what they've been doing.
"It's the story of what you all have achieved here that we want to tell. It's the story we want to be telling in every state all across this country," the first lady said.
When she visited Mississippi three years ago, it had just been declared the most obese state in the nation, she said. But things have begun to turn around in just a few short years.
Mrs. Obama attributed the decline in childhood obesity rates here to efforts by state lawmakers, the Board of Education and individual school districts, which she said took such steps as setting new standards for food and drinks in school vending machines, serving more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and replacing food fryers with steamers, to which she exclaimed, "Hallelujah."
Some churches even declared "no-fry" zones for their congregations, where only healthy food and nothing fried was allowed.
"So there's no reason why this success can't happen in cities and states all across the country — if we're willing to work for it," Mrs. Obama said. "So now is the time for us to truly double down on these efforts. We know what works. We're seeing it right here. We know how to get results. Now we just need to keep stepping up."
The first lady said Mississippi, and other parts of the country that also have seen their childhood obesity rates come down — including California and New York City and Philadelphia — are showing others what works. After all, she said, "love for our children" is the motivating factor.