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

Ideas and Innovation
to-go coffee

We have a fixed kiosk that not only sells coffee, but also protein smoothies, grab-and-go reimbursable meals and other a la carte items. We used updated equipment like what is used in Starbucks and incorporated school colors. It is a very popular addition to one of our high schools, and we are planning on expanding it to two additional high schools.

Menu Development
sam kass talking menu directions

Sam Kass, former White House senior policy advisor for nutrition policy and executive director of the Let’s Move campaign, spoke at FSD’s MenuDirections conference in February.

Q: What’s one of the biggest food-related problems facing our country?

A: Obesity is the No. 1 threat to national security—20% of what we’re spending on healthcare is due to obesity. This isn’t a policy problem. The root of our challenge is culture, and what we value in our food. The healthy choice needs to be the easy choice.

Q: What are some important steps to modeling healthy eating and creating...
Menu Development
three sisters salad

“Everyone is doing Thai in college dining,” says Patrick McElroy, campus executive chef for Bon Appetit at Washington University in St. Louis. So he set out to “push the envelope” on ethnic cuisine and offer Native American dishes—a move that had support from the American Indian Student Association. But McElroy didn’t realize the challenge ahead. “I wanted to maintain the integrity and tradition of the food, but there were very few recipes,” he says. “I had to do a lot of research.” To develop the menu, he enlisted the help of chef Nephi Craig, founder of the Native American Culinary...

Managing Your Business
dancing fruit happy

When editor Jill Failla and I sat down to discuss ideas for this month’s cover story, data from FoodService Director’s sister company Technomic was the spark that lit the flame of conversation. She told me the most recent Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report had found that consumers are more willing to order and pay more for items they think are both healthy and tasteful. My questions: OK, what does that look like in practice? How does it factor into operators’ decision-making processes? And what the heck do we call that phenomenon?

After tossing around some ideas, we had it: the...

FSD Resources