February 9, 2010
Contact: Oliver Bernstein, Sierra Club, 512.289.8618
Sierra Club Praises Obama Administration Steps to Encourage Outdoor Activity, Better Nutrition for America's Youth
Washington, DC -- Two important Obama Administration initiatives announced this week will help encourage outdoor activity and better nutrition for America's youth. Today First Lady Michelle Obama announced the "Let's Move" campaign, which encourages children and young adults to get more exercise. To help launch the campaign, President Obama signed a memorandum creating an interagency task force to address childhood obesity. This follows U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar's Monday rollout of the "Youth in the Great Outdoors" initiative, through the Department of the Interior’s Office of Youth in Natural Resources.
In response to these announcements, Sierra Club's National Youth Representative Jacqueline Ostfeld issued the following statement:
"Sierra Club praises First Lady Michelle Obama for her ambitious initiative to put America's children on a path towards healthier lifestyles. Today's children are living increasingly indoor and sedentary lives. We appreciate the First Lady's commitment to getting kids physically active again by praising local efforts to create safer outdoor spaces for children, like sidewalks, parks and community gardens, initiatives that would reconnect them with the world outside. Mrs. Obama called on adults to recall their own childhoods when they ran around outside right up until dinner time. Play and activities outdoors in nature during childhood are essential components of healthy childhoods and provide cost-effective, fun and lifelong pathways to improved physical activity and wellbeing. The inclusion of the Department of the Interior in the anti-obesity task force shows a commendable commitment to incorporate public lands and time outdoors into the initiative.
"Sierra Club's Building Bridges to the Outdoors project is committed to expanding and improving opportunities for youth from underserved communities to connect with the great outdoors. Time spent outdoors in nature during childhood gets kids physically active again and has been shown to lead to positive attitudes towards the environment in adulthood. Last year, BBTO reached over 40,000 youth through strategic partnerships, reconnecting them with the natural world through experiences in school and community gardens, environmental education and service projects and visits to our National Parks and other public lands, for their own health and the wellbeing of our planet.
"We commend Secretary of the Interior Salazar's commitment to reconnect youth with the great outdoors. Through last spring’s establishment of an Office of Youth in Natural Resources at the Department of the Interior and Monday's announcement of the 'Youth in the Great Outdoors' initiative, Secretary Salazar is moving the department in the right direction, advancing his vision for a 21st Century Youth Conservation Corps, one that will serve to connect 12,000 youth with public lands in 2010 and even more next year.
"During this time of high unemployment rates, Secretary Salazar's initiative focuses on connecting youth with the great outdoors by outfitting them with education, skills and meaningful employment opportunities, while beginning to tackle the backlog of work projects piling up on our public lands. Secretary Salazar’s initiative to 'employ, educate and engage' youth calls on department bureaus to increase job opportunities on public lands by 50% in 2010 and 60% in 2011.
"We are pleased to see the Obama Administration prioritizing both the health and the employment of youth. At a time when jobs are scarce, obesity rates are high, and many teenagers are spending their free time indoors, the Department of the Interior is making great strides towards reconnecting teens and young adults, particularly those from underserved communities, with the America's Treasured Landscapes program and by putting young Americans to work on our public lands. The 'Youth in the Great Outdoors' initiative will help launch a new and diverse generation into future careers with our public land management agencies, while providing good jobs that engage youth in physical activity. We hope to see additional initiatives from the new interagency task force on childhood obesity that would get children moving again by connecting them with the great outdoors."