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Michelle Obama’s PLEZi Nutrition Aims to Help Raise a Healthier Generation of Kids

Building on her efforts in the White House with her Let's Move! initiative, Mrs. Obama is guiding PLEZi Nutrition’s mission to be a model for how food and beverage brands can support the health of our younger generations.

At The Wall Street Journal's recent Future of Everything Festival, former First Lady Michelle Obama delivered closing remarks on the state of children's health in the US and urged the thousands of industry leaders in the room and watching online to be part of the change that will help this generation of kids grow into a healthier future. As part of her remarks, Obama announced the launch of PLEZi Nutrition — a Public Benefit Company on a mission to create higher standards for how the US makes and markets food and beverages for kids.

The US is in a nutrition-related health crisis. Kids are not getting the recommended levels of nutrients they need, and they are consuming far too much added sugar — on average, 53 pounds of added sugar per year. Sugar-sweetened beverages are the leading source of added sugar — and nearly two-thirds of youth consume sugary drinks on a given day.

Building on her efforts in the White House with her Let's Move! initiative, Mrs. Obama is working behind-the-scenes as a co-founder and strategic partner of PLEZi Nutrition to guide the company's mission to drive change and be a model for how food and beverage brands can support the health of our younger generations.

"I've learned that on this issue, if you want to change the game, you can't just work from the outside. You've got to get inside — you've got to find ways to change the food and beverage industry itself," Obama said in her closing remarks at the Future of Everything Festival. "I'm proud to announce the national launch of a company designed not just to provide better products, but to jumpstart a race to the top that will transform the entire food industry."

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The long-overdue but better-late-than-never recognition in the US that proper nutrition — rather than reactive regimens of pharmaceuticals — is a cornerstone of good health at every age has created a burgeoning industry centered on healthy, balanced, tasty food options (think companies such as One Step Foods and Jennifer Garner’s Once Upon a Farm line). PLEZi Nutrition adds to these efforts by offering parents healthier, great-tasting products that kids actually want — with lower sugar content and sweetness to help adjust kids' palates to crave less sweetness, while adding in nutrients kids need.

PLEZi Nutrition's first product — a drink called PLEZi — has 75 percent less sugar than average leading 100 percent fruit juices, plus fiber and nutrients such as potassium, magnesium and zinc. Currently available in four flavors nationwide at Target and Sprouts and online at Walmart, PLEZi's goal is to be available anywhere you can buy a soda or sports drink. The company plans to expand into additional beverages and snacks in the years ahead.

In her remarks, Mrs. Obama also announced a "Kitchen Cabinet" advisory group of experts in nutrition, public health and parenting who will guide and advise the company's educational efforts, as well as marketing approaches and product development. The PLEZi Nutrition Kitchen Cabinet Advisory Committee members include:

  • Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, MBA, President Emerita and former CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and Professor Emerita, RWJF Population Health and Health Equity, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania

  • Emily Oster, PhD, Professor at Brown University, NYT best-selling author, public health economist, and parenting expert

  • Christina Economos, PhD, Professor of Nutrition and the New Balance Chair in Childhood Nutrition at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University

  • Donna Martin, EdS, RDN, SNS, Director School Nutrition Program, Burke County, Georgia Schools

  • Shale Wong, MD, MSPH, Pediatrician and Professor of Pediatrics and Family Medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine; Director of the Eugene S. Farley, Jr. Health Policy Center; and Vice Chair for Policy and Advocacy in the Department of Pediatrics

  • Debra Eschmeyer, former Executive Director of Let's Move! and Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama for Nutrition Policy; founder and partner of public affairs agency Original Strategies, food systems policy expert, and Chair of the PLEZi Nutrition Kitchen Cabinet.

In another component of PLEZi Nutrition's efforts to make a meaningful impact on kids' health, Mrs. Obama announced an initial donation of $1 million to FoodCorps' Nourishing Futures initiative — which is working to ensure all 50 million students across the country have access to nutrition education and free school meals by 2030. Going forward, PLEZi Nutrition will be investing 10 percent of profits back into the broader movement to promote kids' health.

Along with creating better products, PLEZi Nutrition will also provide an educational platform for parents and kids. A sizable portion of the marketing budget will be dedicated to promotional content around what's best for kids' health — including actively promoting drinking water and eating whole fruits and vegetables.

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