Transcripts of full meetings of the council.

Thank you, Mr. President. First I'd like to say thank you to Councilman Jim Kenney for a taste of the Irish culture today. She was a talented young woman.

Secondly, I'd like to remind members that immediately following City Council, there will be a legislative luncheon hosted by former Mayor Reverend W. Wilson Goode and the executive leadership at the Big Brothers Big Sisters, Marcus Allen. So we invite members to join us next door and to hear about the new, exciting things that are happening there at Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Lastly my remarks, today I want to seize the moment to share what I view as amazing news. On February 25th of this year, federal health authorities reported a 43 percent drop in obesity rates among children ages two to five. This represents the first broad decrease in this epidemic since the publication of the 2004 National Institutes of Health comprehensive report on obesity wherein it stated that obesity among young people of color was at a crisis.

According to the Center for Disease Control, about 8 percent of our young people were obese in 2012. That figure is down from 14 percent in 2004. When young people are overweight or obese, the fact is that they are five times as likely to be overweight or obese as adults.

According to the lead researcher, quote, This is the first time we have seen any indication of any significant decrease in any age group.

This data is even more exciting when coupled with a 2013 report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation wherein it stated Philadelphia reported a significant reduction in the rate of obesity amongst school children, particularly among teens and young people of color. Rates of obesity for children K through 12 decreased by 4.7 percent.

So kudos to Dr. Donald Schwarz and our Health Department for their concentration in this area. I keenly remember sitting in this Chamber during the Street Administration when Philadelphia was named, and I quote, not by us but by others, "the fattest city in America," end quote. As elected officials, some of us did complain and others of us got to work. My office worked with The Food Trust and called for hearings on what we now know as food deserts. It was Representative Dwight Evans' vision as the then Chair of the House Appropriation Committee that led to new financing methods for supermarkets in certain neighborhoods, attracting grocers like Jeff Brown of Brown's Shop Rite. Together, Representative Evans and Jeff Brown have literally changed the landscape of many of our neighborhoods, creating jobs, offering fresh food at an affordable cost, and teaching a new generation of Philadelphians how to shop and eat healthier.

In 2004, City Council passed a resolution introduced by my office to ban all sodas and sugar-sweetened drinks from the public school vending machines. We met with Coca-Cola and others. We worked with then Chairman James Nevels and SRC member Sandra Dungee Glenn, who saw the smartness in that resolution. They later decided to remove sodas from schools K through 8.

The SRC then acted to take deep fryers out of Philadelphia schools and make the switch to 1 percent skim milk. And then later Paul Vallas and his Chief of Staff, Natalie Paquin, now CEO of Girl Scouts, led the charge to expand organized sports to middle school grades and thus expanded sports programs in high schools, proving the point without funding for athletics programs, we continue to rob our students of many, many valuable healthy benefits.

And then later in 2010, my office introduced the menu labeling legislation, which took us two years to get done, seeking nine votes, but at the end of the day, we got 12 votes, and as a result, we're now teaching a new generation of parents and young people that knowledge is power and life really is all about choices, including nutritional choices. We may not always pick the healthiest choice, but menu labeling gives us the power to make healthier choices.

So I thank my colleagues who supported me, and I thank those who came later and said, Blondell, that was not such a bad idea.

We must also salute what I call corporate citizens like McDonald's, who saw the need, listened to parents, and have added healthier food options to their menu. In 2004, McDonald's began offering apples as a Happy Meal option. In 2012, McDonald's began including apples in all future Happy Meals. So now we will have a new generation of young people that know that a Happy Meal can include tasteful fresh fruit.

And how can we have a conversation about winning the war on childhood obesity without mentioning First Lady Michelle Obama? Her program, Let's Move, is changing how young people and adults view food, fitness, and healthy living, and she's achieving great results, as was reported two weeks ago around the country. Her mission has created an entirely new dialogue between parents and children, and the results from Let's Move we'll see years to come.

Just as a generation of 1980s babies grew up with Nancy Reagan's Just Say No, Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign is having the same effect. Some might call this a cultural flash point that moves far beyond the walls of the White House. Michelle Obama is making the notion of healthier eating and exercise the expectation and not the exception to the rule. So now I imagine eight years from now when we look to see the impact the Let's Move will have on future generations, including young people who fill these seats.

The point, progress has been achieved, albeit incremental, through the work of many stakeholders over this last decade, and I'm energized by the fact that when we do sort of stick to our guns on issues that matter, we can make a difference, if not for us, for the little people that are coming behind us.

So there's a lot more work to be done in this area, and so I say stay tuned as we continue the mission of working to build healthier children and young people, Mr. President.

I thank you very, very much.

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