First lady Michelle Obama waded into trickier political waters than her usual healthy-eating speeches allow when she touched the hot-button immigration issue at a conference for the nation’s foremost Latino leaders Tuesday.
“Your president and his administration are going to keep working with you and fighting with you every step of the way,” Obama said at the annual conference of the National Council of La Raza Tuesday in New Orleans. “I know these debates are hard, especially on immigration, but do not give up, because I know my husband will not give up until a good bill gets on his desk.”
The first lady, whom National Council of La Raza President Janet Murguia called “an honorary Latina” during the introduction, then turned the conversation to childhood obesity and healthy eating, a signature initiative of hers since the start of her husband’s first term.
“For so many of us, food is love,” Obama said. “By cooking for our loved ones, we show them how much we care about them.” She recounted big family gatherings on the South Side of Chicago when she was a child, and devouring her grandfather’s baby back ribs.
“While food might be love, the truth is that we are loving ourselves and our kids to death. So we need to step up,” Obama said. “We need to own this as a serious problem in our communities. We need to admit what we’re doing simply isn’t working anymore. And need to question the behaviors and beliefs that are making our kids sick.”
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, Hispanic Americans are more likely than white Americans to be obese or overweight, and are less likely to engage in physical activity. Obama told the conference that 40% of Hispanic-American children are overweight, and 50% are on track to develop diabetes. About a third of all American children are overweight.
While Obama preached healthy eating, she also preached moderation – and adherence to a lighter form of the “food is love” ethos.
“Abuela doesn’t have to stop making that tres leches that everyone loves,” she told the crowd to cheers.