First Lady Michelle Obama spoke to a packed audience at the National Council of La Raza’s (NCLR) convention’s last day, and did not mince words when tackling one of the causes she what has become her ignature issue – childhood obesity.
“For so many of us, food is love,” said Mrs. Obama, acknowledging that many Latino families are of limited means. “When you always have to say no to your kids, sometimes it feels good to say yes to food.” Mrs. Obama then said, ” While food might be love, we are loving ourselves and our kids to death – we need to own this as a serious problem in our communities.”
Forty percent of Latino children are overweight or obese, and 50 percent are on track to develop diabetes, said Mrs. Obama. The First Lady acknowledged that there are other factors contributing to increased obesity among Latino children, including parents’ concerns for safety in certain communities. Hispanic children ages 9 to 13 are half as likely to participate in organized physical activity as other children, she said, and Latino neighborhoods have one-third fewer chain supermarkets.
Mrs. Obama urged Latino organizers to help empower families with the resources they need, and made the connection with health care, saying regular physical checkups can provide guidance with nutrition and ways to keep children healthier. The first lady also urged Latino adults to encourage young adults to sign up for the new health care exchanges under the Affordable Care Act, especially young adults in Texas, California and Florida.
“We know that when Mamá or Abuela speak, they (young adults) listen,” said Mrs. Obama.
The first lady also briefly touched on immigration at the beginning of her speech.
“I know these debates are hard,” said Mrs. Obama on immigration. “Do not give up,” she said to applause. “I promise you my husband won’t give up until a good bill is on his desk.”