Utah nutritionist invited to White House to help with national program

By Amanda Butterfield | Posted - Jun. 8, 2010 at 5:11 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY -- First Lady Michelle Obama invited a nutritional chemist from Utah to the White House this past weekend. It was part of her Let's Move! campaign to help kids become healthier and have better food available to them in school.

What is... "Chefs Move to Schools?"
The "Chefs Move to Schools" program pairs chefs with schools across the country to help teach kids healthy habits. It is part of First Lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move!" campaign to end the epidemic of childhood obesity.

His documentary "Killer At Large" is one of the reasons Dr. Shawn Talbott, a nutritional biochemist, was invited to the White House.

"It tries to explore all the different aspects of the American obesity epidemic. So, we look at fast food, we look at soda pop, we look at vending machines in schools, we look at physical activity," Talbott says.

The documentary caught Michelle Obama's eye; and since Talbott co-produced it, she asked him to the White House this past weekend, along with over 50 other chefs and nutritionists, to tackle childhood obesity.

"The fact that so many kids are so fat so early in their lives is a huge, huge problem," Talbott says. "If we don't get a handle on it, it will bankrupt our country. That's how significant a problem this is, from a health care perspective."

The weekend event kicked off Michelle Obama's [Chef's Move to Schools program](http://healthymeals.nal.usda.gov/nal_display/index.php?tax_level=1&info_center=14&tax_subject=225), which is run through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Its goal is to show schools, communities and children how to prepare and choose healthier foods.

"We can get chefs to adopt a school and actually get in there and talk about healthy food, show healthy food, maybe plant gardens, take field trips to grocery stores," Talbot says.

Childhood obesity aside, Talbott says it was pretty surreal being at the White House.

"We got to walk to veggie garden. We saw the White House beehives and took pictures in front of the fountain," he says. "We were looking at each other, saying, ‘Pinch me!' ‘Cause we couldn't believe we were there."

Now that Talbott is home, he's sending out abridged versions of his documentary to schools across the country, hoping to make a difference.

"It's the biggest problem in the country right now, it really is; and that's not an overstatement," Talbott says.

Nearly one-third of children in the United States are overweight; that's what Michelle Obama told Talbott while he was visiting.

Obesity Epidemic
  • Over the past three decades, childhood obesity rates in America have tripled
  • Today, nearly one in three children in America are overweight or obese.
  • One third of all children born in 2000 or later will suffer from diabetes at some point in their lives; many others will face chronic obesity-related health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, and asthma.
  • A recent study put the health care costs of obesity-related diseases at $147 billion per year.
  • Obesity is now one of the most common disqualifiers for military service.
-Office of the First Lady

E-mail: abutterfield@ksl.com

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Amanda Butterfield

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