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First Lady's 'Let's Move' program expands to military

Michelle Obama will announce a Pentagon venture to make the food offerings in the U.S. military more healthy. It’s the first change to military rations in 20 years. Here, U.S. soldiers have their Thanksgiving Day meal at Bagram air base, 50 kms north of Kabul, on Nov. 24, 2011.

Jeremy Hobson: Today first lady Michelle Obama will be in Dallas, Texas, promoting her campaign to get the nation's children to eat healthy. Yesterday, she made the pitch in Little Rock, Ark. -- but not to students. She's trying to make over the menu at military bases.

From our Health Desk at WHYY in Philadelphia, Gregory Warner reports.


Gregory Warner: Michelle Obama said yesterday that she hoped her initiative to bring healthier food to military bases would send a message to Americans.

Robert Paarlberg lectures on food politics at the Kennedy School of Government.

Robert Paarlberg: Government often uses the military to make important social changes. It was the decision to integrate the army in 1944 that arguably led to the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

Call this a campaign for hearts and stomachs. The program will bring more fruits and vegetables and whole grain foods to mess halls and cafeterias in the next few months. Vending machines are also getting a makeover.

The Defense Department hopes the changes will cut health costs. It spends over $1 billion a year on medical care for military personnel with weight-related problems. Robert Paarlberg remembers when he was in the Navy, he always had a chocolate bar in his pocket.

Paarlberg: You didn't go too far without making sure you had a snack in your pocket, and candy was the easiest one to carry.

An apple just would have broken his stride.

In Philadelphia, I'm Gregory Warner for Marketplace.

About the author

Gregory Warner is a senior reporter covering the economics and business of healthcare for the entire Marketplace portfolio.
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