MIAMI (AP) – First Lady Michelle Obama stopped at a Miami rec center Tuesday to continue her fight against childhood obesity by ensuring that children are staying healthy throughout their day, including after the school bell rings.
She announced that two of the nation's largest after-school providers, Boys & Girls Clubs of America and the National Recreation and Park Association, have committed to creating healthier environments for five million kids in their programs. Nearly 5,400 clubs and sites will serve a fruit or vegetable at each meal or snack along with healthier drink options including lower fat milk and water, ensure kids get 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity each day and educate kids about the importance of staying active.
"For so many kids there's still that two or three hour gap after that school bell rings when their lives aren't always structured, when parents don't know who they are hanging out with ... or what they're putting in their body," Obama said.
NBC's "Parks and Recreation" star Amy Poehler introduced the first lady, joking that her Let's Move program was "taking off a little bit faster than my initiative 'Let's Help Me Move'."
Obama congratulated Miami-Dade County park officials for adopting a healthy after school program several years ago, noting that kids were kayaking, gardening, playing tennis and hiking through those programs.
Nearly three dozen parks around the county have used Fit2Play, which includes group activities like obstacles courses and nutrition relay challenges. Students start each day with homework help, followed by various sports games that burn calories, improve social schools and help them make educated food choices.
Miami-Dade Park officials started the program in 2005 after staggering statistics showed the rate of obese and overweight adults in the county was more than 67 percent, which is higher than the national average.
Researchers from the University of Miami followed nearly 300 children between the ages of 6 and 14-years-old assessing their weight and body mass index along with their nutrition IQ before and after the 2010-2011 school year and found the program to be highly effective in preventing childhood obesity and other health risk factors.
Participants maintained healthy weight and BMI throughout the school year and those who started the program with high blood pressure lowered it, according to researchers.
Obama launched the Let's Move program in 2010 to promote a more active and healthy lifestyle in a nation where obesity has become an increasing problem.
Jenna Bush Hager, actor Mario Lopez and former Miami Heat star Alonzo Mourning were among the celebrities attending the event at the rec center.
"Without parks where would we put all the swings," Poehler said.
"This is so fun. The first lady is just standing next to me like she's my audience and I'm just telling her jokes," the actress laughed.
On the heels of revamping school lunches, Obama announced in Washington earlier Tuesday new rules that will be proposed by the White House and the Agriculture Department to limit marketing of unhealthy foods in schools. They would phase out the advertising of sugary drinks and junk foods around campuses during the school day.
The new proposals follow USDA regulations that are now requiring foods in the school lunch line to be healthier.
Rules set to go into effect next school year will make other foods around school healthier as well, including in vending machines and separate "a la carte" lines in the lunch room. Calorie, fat, sugar and sodium limits will have to be met on almost every food and beverage sold during the school day at 100,000 schools. Concessions sold at afterschool sports games would be exempt.
The healthier food rules have come under fire from conservatives who think the government shouldn't dictate what kids eat — and from some students who don't like the healthier foods.