WASHINGTON (RNS) First lady Michelle Obama has expanded her “Let’s Move” initiative to reduce childhood obesity to include working with religious and community organizations.
“We can provide all the information in the world but it’s really the leadership and respect that so many of you have garnered through your congregations and communities that’s going to help push this conversation to the next level,” Obama told leaders on a Monday (Nov. 29) conference call.

Joshua DuBois, executive director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, said charities involved in “Let’s Move” have helped develop goals for 2011, including walking a collective 3 million miles, developing 10,000 community gardens and farmers markets, and hosting 1,000 new summer feeding sites for needy children.

“We want to make sure that we’re having a real and measurable impact on our kids’ lives,” Obama said, speaking to representatives of churches, the Girl Scouts and a Muslim health professionals group.

She will work with leaders whose houses of worship and other organizations already offer nutrition and exercise programs or community gardens to “shake other congregations up” to get involved.

An online toolkit for community leaders was posted Monday on the LetsMove.gov website with links to information about federal programs encouraging fitness and healthy eating. It offers tips such as switching from sugar-sweetened drinks to 100 percent juice products in school programs and using smaller plates and fresh fruits and vegetables at congregation potlucks.

Early next year, Obama will host a “Let’s Move Faith and Communities” event in Washington to set further goals for the program.

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