First Lady, Federal Agencies Launch Summer Initiative to Curb Childhood Obesity and Reading Loss

Ashley Etienne, 202/606-6944,

Washington, DC—First Lady Michelle Obama and four Cabinet Secretaries, joined Patrick Corvington, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service to launch United We Serve: Let's Read. Let's Move. today. The new initiative will get more Americans volunteering to combat childhood obesity and summer learning loss among youth.

"The United We Serve Summer Service initiative is a nationwide effort calling on all Americans to make service a part of their daily lives," said Mrs. Obama. "We are asking individuals and community organizations, corporations, foundations and government to come together and devote their time and energy to help our kids stay active and healthy – and to keep them learning – all summer long." At today's launch event, the First Lady and Congressional leaders packed Healthy Lifestyle Kits as part of the initiative that included activity equipment, healthy snacks, and books. The kits will be distributed to more than 3,000 young people.

Let's Read. Let's Move. is an Administration-wide effort led by the Corporation to expand opportunities to engage young people in summer reading and physical activities as well as provide access to healthy, affordable food. The initiative aims to increase access to volunteer projects around reading; exercise, and healthy eating; provide toolkits and resources to help Americans develop high impact service projects; and build new partnerships to reach youth in big cities and rural communities. Click here to learn more about Let's Read. Let's Move., and how everyday Americans can make a difference.

"Nothing is more critical to the future of our nation than ensuring our young people are prepared to lead," said Patrick Corvington, the Corporation's CEO. "This is an all-hands-on- deck effort that harnesses the compassion of Americans to help our youth build fit bodies and strong minds necessary to be successful in school and in life."

The Problem:

Research shows that a staggering percentage of young people suffer learning-loss and acquire unhealthy eating habits during the summer break. Young people can lose more than two months of progress in reading achievement over the summer, 1 out of 3 children in the U.S. are overweight or obese, and millions of youth go without healthy, nutritious meals over the summer months.

Service as a Solution to Childhood Obesity and Learning Loss:

Let's Read. Let's Move. makes it easy for Americans to help youth build strong minds and bodies through summer reading, exercise, and eating healthy foods—all of which are contributing factors to achieving success in school. Below are details on the partnership with each federal agency and the First Lady's Let's Move campaign, and quotes from the Secretaries.

  • First Lady Michelle Obama
    Nearly a year ago, the First Lady began a national conversation with America's children about proper nutrition and the role food plays in living a healthy life. That discussion grew into the Let's Move campaign. The campaign will combat the epidemic of childhood obesity through a comprehensive approach that builds on effective strategies, and mobilizes public and private sector resources.

  • Department of Education (DOE)
    Reading five books over the summer prevents learning loss. Working with DOE, Let's Read. Let's Move. will increase awareness about the critical importance of summer learning and encourage Americans to read to children. Additionally, DOE's 2010 Summer Enrichment Series will invite Cabinet members, Administration officials, and other public figures to read children's books, promote healthy lifestyles, and participate in games and fitness activities with children in pre-kindergarten through third grade.

    "We know that for far too many children, reading achievement either stalls or gets worse when schoolwork stops during the summer. In fact, most low-income children can lose more than two months of reading skills progress during the summer break," said Education Secretary Arne Duncan. "The key to stopping summer learning loss is reading. If a child reads a minimum of five books between June and August, they will be on track for success next school year. We need every child to read at least 5 books this summer and every adult to help. We are really excited to help kick off Let's Read. Let's Move. and look forward to working with the Corporation for National Service and the rest of the Administration on this important initiative."

  • Department of the Interior (DOI)
    One of the easiest and most enjoyable ways to get youth active is by playing outside. This summer initiative, in collaboration with Let's Move Outside!, provides parents the tools, ideas, and tips they need to get their families moving outdoors. Parents and kids are encouraged to bike through National Parks to improve endurance and balance, explore the country by hiking a local trail, and set aside time for play to improve children's mental and physical health.

    "The Department of the Interior applauds the First Lady for promoting outside activities for children and wants our national parks, wildlife refuges, and other public lands to contribute greatly to that effort because these lands and waters belong to all Americans," said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. "Let's Move Outside! goes hand-in-hand with the America's Great Outdoors Initiative ... to reconnect Americans—especially children—with nature and the outdoors."

  • Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
    Youth need 60 minutes of active play time each day. Through the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports (PCPFS), Let's Read. Let's Move. will get more youth physically active. HHS hopes that thousands of young people across the country will take part in the President's Active Lifestyle program and log their activity online. Toolkits provide parents, educators and groups information on ways to participate in the President's Challenge and the program's rules. "Fit kids are better students," said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "Research shows that physically active youth perform better academically," added Sebelius. "An active lifestyle—30 minutes per day for adults and 60 minutes per day for youth—combined with healthy eating is proven to prevent obesity and reduce the risks associated with obesity-related illnesses such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and asthma."

  • Department of Agriculture (USDA)
    Hunger doesn't take a break in the summer. USDA and Let's Read. Let's Move. will encourage America's children to plant community gardens through the People's Garden Initiative, and use volunteers to connect children with healthy foods and meals as part of the Summer Food Service Program. Toolkits provide individuals and organizations guidance on building community gardens and ways to volunteer to deliver meals to youth.

    "Let's Read. Let's Move. will enlist volunteers to help us support and expand USDA's summer feeding program to additional sites and sponsors and ensure that America's children have access to healthy food when school isn't in session," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "In addition, other efforts to help teach kids where their food comes and promote active lifestyles will help America's children excel as students and leaders in their communities."

Let's Read. Let's Move. Partners:

Let's Read. Let's Move. is bolstered by the support of national and community organizations, such as Reach Out and Read, First Book, and the National Military Families Association, to help reach a broad, diverse group of youth. Corporations are also backing the initiative, including American Express Foundation, Target, United Healthcare/Unison, Microsoft, General Mills, AOL, Honest Tea, NFL Players Association, Cabot Cheese, and Marriott Crystal Gateway and Residence Inn Marriott of Arlington, VA.

About the Corporation for National and Community Service:

The Corporation for National and Community Service is a federal agency that engages more than five million Americans in service through its Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, and Learn and Serve America programs, and leads President Obama's national call to service initiative, United We Serve. For more information, visit