FLOTUS’ Kitchen Diplomacy

Michelle Obama is working to bring healthy recipes from the top food websites to Pinterest.

Healthy cooking ideas are at the core of the latest Let's Move! initiative (Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

Mar 6, 2013· 1 MIN READ
Jason Best is a regular contributor to TakePart who has worked for Gourmet and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

If only Michelle Obama could bring some of her “Let’s Move!” mojo to a seemingly gridlocked Congress.

While anything resembling “progress” can seem woefully absent in our nation’s capital (e.g., the ongoing sequester debacle), the First Lady appears to have hit her stride in the now three-year-old campaign to combat childhood obesity and, in general, whip the country into better physical shape.

And no, I’m not just talking about Mrs. Obama’s recent media blitz (presenting at the Oscars via satellite; dancing with Jimmy Fallon; trading “you’re such a beautiful woman” kudos with Robin Roberts on GMA).

Of course, in our media-saturated culture, getting your message on TV once, let alone a gazillion times, is itself generally considered a measure of success.

No, FLOTUS actually seems to be doing something, like, far-reaching and tangible, unlike so many of her predecessors, who were either relegated to hosting feel-good luncheons and obscure White House ceremonies for anodyne causes (“Just Say ‘No’”; childhood literacy), or stymied when they tried to redefine the role (Hillarycare).

It may not be bringing peace to the Middle East, but Mrs. Obama managed to get the fiercely competitive rivals behind some of the most popular food sites on the web to sign on to her initiative, announcing a partnership in which outlets like Allrecipes, Better Homes & Gardens, Cooking Light, Epicurious and Recipe.com will post healthy recipes to Pinterest on collective “MyPlate Recipes” pin boards.

That’s a coup, given the cutthroat nature of the food website world (and yes, behind all those cheery articles on “5 Great Recipes for Boneless Chicken Breast,” the biz can be pretty bloody).

Already the sites have collectively posted almost a thousand “MyPlate-inspired” recipes to such boards as “Chicken Dinners,” “Healthy Casseroles,” “Healthier Desserts” and “Kid-Friendly Meals.”

All recipes are, theoretically, supposed to align with the USDA’s MyPlate program, which replaced the famed Food Pyramid a couple years ago as the federal symbol of nutritious eating.

Touting the effort in a news release last week, the First Lady says: “This partnership takes the guess work out of finding healthier recipes and gives parents the information and the tools they need to make healthy choices for their families every day.”

It almost goes without saying, given the mention of “healthy casseroles,” that this campaign is targeted at boosting the nutritional profile of mainstream Middle America (as opposed to, say, those who already get their organic brown rice and wild-caught Alaska salmon filets from Whole Foods).

And despite Mrs. Obama’s success at getting a trove of name-brand healthy recipes in one convenient place, it may take more than appearing on another round of morning shows to really get American’s moving toward the MyPlate goals.

According to a 2011 market research report, the average consumer only comes close to meeting MyPlate’s targets for consumption of dairy, fruit, grains, proteins and vegetables about seven days a year. And (you guessed it) more than 65 percent of the adults surveyed were either overweight or obese.