White House

Michelle Obama shares meal, Let's Move campaign with Dallas parents

FORT WORTH — Monica Calton saw history Thursday.

After stopping at a far north Fort Worth Olive Garden, only because she saw news media vehicles and police cars parked outside, she got a glimpse of first lady Michelle Obama.

Obama -- on a tour to talk with parents about changing eating and exercise habits in their homes -- walked into the restaurant as Calton and other onlookers yelled and cheered.

"I can't believe she's this close to me," said Calton, 44. "I'm the person who never wins anything and I just won the lottery by seeing her."

Inside, Obama met with eight parents as part of her three-day, four-state tour marking the two-year anniversary of her Let's Move! campaign. The effort aims to reduce childhood obesity by urging more healthful eating habits and more active lifestyles.

Obama began by saying that it's one thing to sit in Washington and talk about initiatives but that the important part is to reach parents and kids. Let's Move! was born from her experiences as a working mother whose husband was often out of town.

"For me, this is personal," she said.

Andrea Breedlove, a Fort Worth mother and a crisis counselor at Haltom High School, was among those who sat down for dinner with Obama inside the restaurant at Alliance Town Center.

Breedlove talked about growing up with a mother who was morbidly obese, working with overweight teens and encouraging her own children to eat more vegetables.

"It was amazing," Breedlove said afterward. "I'm so excited about getting back to school.

"She told us we are great and to keep doing what we do."

Addressing obesity

Nearly one-third of U.S. children are overweight, and over 15 percent are obese. In more than 12 states, including Texas, the obesity rate tops 30 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Obama's work has prompted food manufacturers and retailers to reduce sugar, salt and fat in some products and has encouraged some schools to start salad bars in lunchrooms.

Olive Garden's parent, Darden Restaurants, which also owns Red Lobster and Longhorn Steakhouse, agreed last year to offer healthier dishes for children. The chain promised to cut sodium and calories from menu items.

Thursday night's menu for Obama and the discussion participants included a soup, entree and dessert. Obama ordered minestrone soup, Venetian apricot chicken (400 calories) and limoncello mousse, according to the pool report.

"I hope you're hungry," Obama told the group. "I'm starving."

Andrea and Jason Roberts from Oak Cliff in Dallas also participated, talking about programs encouraging children to ride bikes to school.

Jenny Hogan of Frisco talked about a running group and her children's snacks. Three of her children met the first lady, and Amanda, 8, got her autograph on the folder where she lists her running records and healthful snacks.

"She's very down-to-earth," Hogan said. "She has her kids as her priority.

"She's a mom, just like us, and she has dinner at 6:30 every day. They stop everything. Eating healthy is the way to go."

Local impression

Obama visited Des Moines, Iowa, and Little Rock before Fort Worth.

This morning, she will be in Dallas, meeting with past Top Chef contestants and Dallas Cowboys players to spotlight work being done in schools nationwide.

After that, she'll move on to Florida.

The crowd outside the Fort Worth Olive Garden grew while Obama was inside. When she walked out after about an hour, the bystanders took pictures and applauded. Several yelled, "We love you!"

Tim Kendrick, 30, who works nearby, got a picture of the first lady, which he said he'll post on his Facebook page.

"It's rare that somebody of that stature comes to Fort Worth," he said. "I saw her for only a second, but it's something I'll remember forever."

This report includes material from pool reporters traveling with Obama.

To read more, visit www.star-telegram.com.