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First lady meets with lawmakers on child obesity

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First lady Michelle Obama invited a bipartisan group of lawmakers and Cabinet members to the White House Tuesday to help firm up plans for her national campaign against childhood obesity.

The meeting signaled the first lady’s intent to be involved not just in talking about the problem, but in crafting specific solutions. She wants to get families, schools, businesses, nonprofits and government working together on the issue.

The problem is “imminently solvable,” Mrs. Obama said, but not with a single federal solution.

Revising federal child nutrition programs, including school lunches, will be a big part the initiative, she said, offering “an opportunity to impact more than 30 millions kids.”

The first lady plans to release specifics of her “ground-up” plan to fight child obesity next week, including steps to encourage schools to promote healthy eating, increase physical activity for kids, improve families’ access to healthy foods and give parents better information about healthy choices.

Almost one-third of U.S. children are at least overweight, and about 17 percent are obese.

Mrs. Obama’s meeting included six legislators and three Cabinet members who have a big role in health policy. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the first lady’s commitment to the obesity issue could make “a fundamental difference” nationally. But Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., said tight budgets mean the government will need to “use what we have” rather than expect lots of additional money.

Mrs. Obama isn’t the first first lady to get involved in policy. Rosalynn Carter, for example, sat in on Jimmy Carter’s Cabinet meetings. And when Hillary Rodham Clinton was first lady, she was the architect of Bill Clinton’s failed attempt to enact a major health reform package in the 1990s.

© 2010 Associated Press. Displayed by permission. All rights reserved.

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