More than 300 children joined the First Lady’s Office and other administration officials recently for the launch of Let’s Move! in Indian Country (LMIC) on the Menominee Reservation in Wisconsin. The event took place at the Keshena Woodland Bowl, where the children played and exercised outdoors after tribal leaders welcomed the First Lady’s Let’s Move! Office, White House Domestic Policy Council, and the Departments of the Interior, Agriculture, and Health and Human Services.
During the celebration, tribal leaders honored special guests Robin Schepper, Executive Director of Let’s Move!, Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Larry Echo Hawk, and Actor Chaske Spencer of the Twilight films. Ms. Schepper read a letter from the First Lady, and addressed the importance of obesity solutions to combat diseases like diabetes. Assistant Secretary Echo Hawk emphasized the need to stay active and fit while pursuing an education, and Spencer advised his young fans to eat well and take care of themselves so that they could pursue their dreams. The closing exercises for the children provided plenty of fun and included everything from relay races and lacrosse to basketball and soccer.
The Let’s Move! in Indian Country (LMIC) initiative includes four main strategies to improve the health and nutrition of Native American children. 20.7% of American Indian and Alaska Native children today are obese, and their vulnerability to food insecurity and hunger is also significantly higher than the general population. Additionally, while a third of children in the U.S. are overweight or obese, this trend applies to almost half (50%) of Native American children. In light of this crisis, the four LMIC goals include:
- Encouraging breastfeeding at health care facilities, as breastfeeding significantly reduces the likelihood of obesity among children.
- Improving 100 school and community centers by increasing access to USDA nutrition assistance programs, standardizing health and wellness policies, and supporting Americorps Vistas who work in Indian Country.
- Engaging 25,000 people in Indian Country to exercise five days a week for six weeks.
- Supporting the development of 20 Tribal or Inter-Tribal food policy councils to improve access to affordable, healthy food.
USDA will play a critical role in this effort by helping to increase access and improve service in Food and Nutrition programs in Indian Country. To honor this effort, USDA also visited the Food Distribution Center, which recently won a USDA award in nutrition education. The award has enabled the Center to teach cooking and canning classes, provide garden beds to 30 families for home vegetable gardens, and develop plans for a new on-site kitchen. USDA also visited the Menominee Business Center, which is pursuing a farmers’ market, and the tribal college, which expanded its STEM curriculum with USDA funding. The Menominee community is also planning a new grocery store, and has already worked hard to open a 30-acre organic farm to teach sustainable farming practices to Menominee children.
It will be exciting to see what more LMIC will help inspire. As a young student who enjoyed exercising at the event with his friends said, “I’m going to start turning off my video games, and just go play outside!”