20 Most Influential: Michelle Obama, Let’s Move!

Obama's Lets Move! campaign is dedicated to solving obesity within a generation.

Official White House photo by Chuck Kennedy

Michelle Obama
First Lady; Creator,
Let’s Move! Washington, D.C.

It’s good to have friends in high places. And it doesn’t get much higher than the White House.

Never before has one person brought so much attention to school cafeterias. Since her family took up residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in early 2009, Michelle Obama has been the biggest advocate on a nationwide basis for child nutrition. She started Lets Move!, a campaign dedicated to solving obesity within a generation.

One of Let’s Move!’s five focus pillars is providing healthy foods in schools. To help accomplish this goal, Obama developed Chefs Move to Schools, to pair commercial chefs with school foodservice teams for training and inspiration.

“Chefs are one of the few groups that have that deep knowledge of food and cooking but also have that star power to turn a vegetable into a fun, exciting moment,” Sam Kass, assistant White House chef and senior policy advisor for healthy food initiatives, says about Chefs Move to Schools. “There is something about a chef’s coat that kids are really drawn to. We wanted to have that knowledge and power to support what schools were doing.”

It’s not just the chefs who bring excitement to school cafeterias. Kass says when Obama walks into a school it’s “pandemonium.”

“The first lady has had a tremendous impact on school lunch and the school meal program,” Kass adds. “The most important accomplishment was helping to pass the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which will bring more resources than ever before to school meal programs and improve the nutritional standards for the first time in 15 years. It’s going to help school chefs who are working hard to put nutritious meals on the plate.” 


Foodservice Director has undertaken a bold initiative by identifying people who we believe are having the biggest impact on non-commercial foodservice. Our list may surprise you and should certainly intrigue you. Our honorees have backgrounds as varied as their personalities. They range from the father of the modern-day food truck to the wife of a sitting president. They include operators and suppliers, chefs and consultants, CEOs and civil servants. There are traditionalists and there are mavericks. Well-known names share space with hot newcomers. In all, 17 people, two groups of individuals and one institution compose the list. It’s time to meet FSD’s 20 Most Influential.

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

The University of New Mexico’s proposed on-campus taproom has officially been approved by the school’s Board of Regents.

Construction on the $650,000 student union taproom will begin this summer and is expected to finish in August when students return to campus. The school’s food vendor, Chartwells, and UNM’s Dining & Food Services department will split the cost of the taproom evenly.

Designed by students in the school’s architecture department, the space will feature a rotating selection of beer and wine, and will also welcome guest brewers. Chartwells will be...

Ideas and Innovation
cafeteria

Three years ago, Colonial School District in New Castle, Del., started a pilot supper program at its high school. The goal: To make sure the district’s students, 57% of whom are on free or reduced-priced meals, would not be hungry when school is done for the day.

Since its inception, the program has expanded to 12 schools and now provides afterschool meals to children participating in YMCA activities. And it's just one of many such programs popping up in districts throughout the country, as operators add supper to the list of daily meals they provide for students.

Building...
Ideas and Innovation
hydroponics

We put our hydroponic gardens in a spot where students can watch them grow, but at the same time it’s safe from being tampered with. At one of our elementary schools, the gardens are in the kitchen, but there’s a window where students can look in as they walk down the hallway. Some even stop to count how many cucumbers they see.

Ideas and Innovation
food snap

We started a 50-member vegan team in response to students expressing the need for more vegan options. Between our monthly meetings, students are asked to take photos of foods they eat in and out of the dining halls to give us a true picture of the kinds of things they like and the kinds of foods that cause disappointment. This exercise has sparked a lot of conversation and given us more insight into what we could do better.

FSD Resources