First Lady to Visit North Philly
First Lady Michelle Obama will tout her 'Let's Move' initiative, which takes on childhood obesity.
Tenth Street residents in North Philadelphia sat on their porches early this morning — news vans clogging their street probably woke them, but they didn’t seem to mind.
First Lady Michelle Obama is in town and planning to speak later this morning at the Lenfest PAL Center in the corner of Pike and North 10th streets. Obama is touting the “Let’s Move!” initiative, which is dedicated to “solving the challenge of childhood obesity within a generation,” according to its website.
Resident Nina Bullard sat on her father’s porch, watching people line up to gain entrance to the Lenfest Center. Bullard, who lives two houses down from her father, said she’s excited that the First Lady is coming for a visit, but is more excited about her initiative.
“I just found out this morning that at the First Lady is coming,” Bullard said. Nothing like this ever happens on this street, and now the First Lady is in the neighborhood? Come on!”
Bullard pointed to the Lenfest Center, and said that the building is a fitting venue for the visit. The childhood obesity rate in the neighborhood is high, she said, and the relatively new center has helped curb that.
“The children really need that here,” Bullard said. “I think it’s been here since 2008, and it really helps keep them in better shape and it keeps them out of trouble — keeps them off the streets."
John Kinney lives across from the center too — but on the other side of Pike Street. He was relaxing with some neighbors, watching the news vans, police and Secret Service getting set up.
Kinney said he’s proud of his neighborhood — the steps it’s taking to help the children become more fit — but adds the steps came too late.
“I support what the First Lady is doing with childhood obesity, and it’s needed, but [the initiative is] years too late,” Kinney said. “Just like the Lenfest Center. I think it’s a beautiful thing, but it came years too late. We needed something for the kids years ago, but at least they have something now. And they’re even building new baseball fields in [nearby] Hunting Park.”
According to the “Let’s Move!” website, nearly one in three children in the country is obese, and nearly 40 percent of children in Hispanic and black communities are obese.
Lenfest PAL tennis instructor Mark Zayas, of northeast Philadelphia, got to work a little early and had to wait as Secret Service swept the building. Zayas, an Archbishop Ryan High School Student, said he has been teaching local children tennis at the center for the past couple of years. He said more kids should take advantage of facilities like the Lenfest Center.
“The obesity rate is bigger than it should be,” Zayas said. “If kids have the opportunity to come to a place like this, why wouldn’t they — especially in the summer time."
The cause of the spike in childhood obesity? According to the website, children are less active and spend more than seven hours per day using “entertainment media.” The website also states cutbacks in gym classes and afterschool programs and an increase in portion sizes.
First Lady Michelle Obama will speak at the Lenfest PAL Center later this morning. Joining Obama will be:
- Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius
- Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter
- Newark, N.J. Mayor Cory Booker
- Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett
- Nashville Mayor Karl Dean
- Bluffton, Ind. Mayor Ted Ellis
- Jackson, Miss. Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr.
- Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson
- DeKalb County, Ga. Commissioner Larry Johnson
- Supervisor of Linn County, Iowa, Linda Langston
- Avondale, Ariz. Mayor Marie Lopez Rogers
- Tupelo, Miss. Mayor Jack Reed Jr.
- Charleston, S.C. Mayor Joe Riley