Let’s Move: What’s next?

My last post on “Let’s Move,” Michelle Obama’s new anti-obesity initiative,  brought up a number of questions about the program’s ambitious goal: “To solve the epidemic of childhood obesity within a generation.”

The main question, of course, is this:  where will the money come from?

Obama’s $400 million dollar Healthy Food Financing Initiative, as described in a White House press release, is a multi-year project that aims to expand access to nutritious foods by “developing and equipping grocery stores and other small businesses and retailers [to sell] healthy food in communities that currently lack these options,” a.k.a., food deserts.

In fact, the Health Food Financing Initiative plans to eliminate food deserts in seven years, through an infusion of cash and technical assistance and the leveraging of hundreds of millions more dollars in private sector investments.

Proponents of the Initiative (as included in the President’s proposed 2011 budget) hope to attract private sector capital through federal tax credits [$250 million in New Markets Tax Credits], below-market rate loans,  guarantees, and grants, and note that  it will support projects both large (such as grocery store construction and/or expansion) and small (or as the press release describes, the distribution of “refrigerated units stocked with fresh produce in convenience stores.”)

A revamped Child Nutrition Act represents the other big chuck of funding for “Let’s Move.” President Obama has proposed an additional $10 billion dollar investment (over a 10-year time period)  in school lunch programs. Initially scheduled for a vote in September 2009, the Act is still under consideration by Congress and will be up again later this summer.

Although a recent survey from the non-profit Child Nutrition Initiative suggests that approximately 83% of Americans support expanding the Child Nutrition Act, the funding details are still under debate. Advocates would like to include funding for state-wide pilot programs, grants to support information systems that would streamline the process of applying for food support assistance (web-based, paperless application programs), increases in the federal breakfast/lunch reimbursement rate, an expansion of the Child and Adult Care Food Program that currently provides after-school meals in 14 states, and stronger authority for the Secretary of Agriculture to regulate “competitive foods” on school campuses.

For a fact sheet on the relationship between childhood nutrition and academic performance, visit http://www.schoolmealsmatter.org/resources/pdfs/kids/Breakfast_for_Learning.pdf

For a fact sheet on the Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative, a pilot program that has provided some evidence for the Healthy Foods Initiative, click here: www.thefoodtrust.org/pdf/FFFI%20Brief.pdf