"I'm here to say, Mississippi, thank you. Thank you so much. Congratulations on your work," the first lady said. "Thank you for taking the lead on this issue. Thank you for serving as an inspiration for states and communities across the country."
About one-third of U.S. children are overweight or obese, putting them at higher risk for heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure, among other ailments.
Mrs. Obama launched "Let's Move" with the goal of helping to reduce childhood obesity rates within a generation. In response, a range of industry groups and others, including food companies, restaurants, retailers and others, promised to make their food healthier and make it easier for kids to get needed exercise.
Among the changes: Wal-Mart is now putting special labels on some of its store-brand products to help shoppers quickly spot healthier items. Millions of schoolchildren are helping themselves to vegetables from salad bars that have been donated for their lunchrooms. Kids' meals at Olive Garden and Red Lobster restaurants are automatically served with a side of fruit or vegetables and a glass of low-fat milk.
For the cafeteria cook-off, each school chef was paired with a professional chef and each team was given 30 minutes to prepare a lunch for 20 kids that met federal nutrition guidelines.
One team fixed two types of fajitas and a fruit smoothie, while the other team whipped up a turkey Sloppy Joe sandwich on a patty made of quinoa, fruit salad with a sour cream and honey dressing and broccoli trees.
A panel of 20 students from the school judged the finished products. Mrs. Obama and Ray also sampled the lunches and kept saying how delicious they were.
"If these kids are eating like this every day," said Ray, "I'm coming to lunch here," added Mrs. Obama.
The competition was held for Ray's daytime talk-show, and the results are to be revealed during the March 11 broadcast.
Follow Darlene Superville on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dsupervilleap