There was plenty of warmth and goodwill keeping a bitterly cold Washington morning at bay as I joined the folks at Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind Sesame Street, at today’s rollout of their Food for Thought: Eating Well on a Budget, multi-media outreach initiative. The educational outreach materials are designed to help support families with children between the ages of two and eight, by nurturing their overall development through good nutrition to create positive outcomes that will last a lifetime. The campaign is aimed at the nearly one in four American children–seventeen million, based on our own USDA Food Security Report estimates–who don’t get the food that meets basic nutritional needs due to difficult economic or social conditions. There couldn’t be a more appropriate time, given our current economic circumstances, or a more fitting place to have the discussion than on Sesame Street, the best known street in the world, with Elmo and friends, some of the best known characters in America.
The initiative is exactly the kind of outreach and education effort we at USDA encourage and support. Our nutrition assistance programs supplement the great work being done by our partners. We are using our combined resources to feed as many people as possible, so it was also fitting that today’s event was launched at the Capital Area Foodbank. But we can’t just feed people–we have to empower them to make healthy choices with the resources we and our partners provide.
The health of our Nation has been a top priority for President Obama, the First Lady, Secretary Vilsack and all of us in the Administration from the beginning and we share Sesame Workshop’s commitment to encourage children to eat healthy foods and be physically active. The First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative focuses on improving children’s diets and getting them to be more physically active. We made great strides toward that goal last week with the historic passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which gives USDA the opportunity to make necessary changes to our child nutrition and WIC programs to improve the nutrition and hunger safety net for millions of our nations youngsters. The law is critical to the millions of children served each school day as well as children in child care settings. The groundbreaking legislation will put kids across the country on the path to a healthy lifestyle. Our partnerships with private organizations are also critical to our success. I’m certain that Elmo and his “Super Foods” friends will help us reach our goal of a brighter, healthier future for all our children.