THE BLOG
06/06/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

An Open Letter to Michelle Obama, Mother-In-Chief

Dear Michelle,

In these uncertain times, I am deeply grateful for the role that you are playing as Mother in Chief and want to express my heartfelt appreciation for the work that you are doing for our nation's 30 million children.

Today, American children suffer from a health crisis never before seen in our country. According to the Centers for Disease Control, one out of every two African American children is expected to be insulin-dependent by adulthood; obesity now claims 30 percent of American children; and we have seen a 265 percent increase in the rate of hospitalizations caused by allergic reactions to food.

With a seemingly never-ending news cycle of stories about peanut butter laced with salmonella, tainted pistachios, staggering beef recalls and industrial chemicals found in baby formula and high fructose corn syrup, it is clear that our food supply has been putting the health of our nation at risk. Beyond these highly publicized culprits, there is a mostly silent but shocking relationship between the toxic manipulation of our food and the alarming recent increases in chronic conditions and diseases, including allergies, ADHD, cancer, and asthma, particularly among our children.

Due to failed federal oversight frighteningly similar to the one we have just witnessed in the financial sector, we can no longer trust that the food that we are putting on our kitchen tables to nourish our families is free of industrial chemicals. With every bite we take, we are essentially gambling with our health and well-being. The unforeseen consequences -- affecting every American family -- are dire.

When I think about our children's future, it worries me that the lack of transparency in our food system is so similar to our financial system. Just as corporate greed, speculation and deregulation destroyed the retirement savings of millions of Americans, the same greed, lack of accountability, transparency and failed oversight systems is threatening the well being of 300 million Americans, both physically and financially.

As health care costs grow exponentially, estimates suggest that health spending will hit $2.5 trillion this year, devouring 17.5 percent of our economy. By failing to address this crisis with our food system, we are adding fuel to the fire, risking not only the health of our children, but the health of our economy.

Why can we develop Treasury Asset Relief Programs to ensure that financial executives continue to receive multimillion dollar salaries but cannot develop a program to ensure the safety of our food supply? Why can we afford billions in subsidies to the multibillion dollar agrochemical conglomerates growing our nation's commodities but cannot afford to introduce new labels alerting us to the presence of genetically engineered ingredients in our food and milk supply? These are ingredients that developed countries around the world -- including the European Union, Australia, the United Kingdom and Japan -- chose to either ban or label in an effort to protect the health of their citizens and children.

In our commercialized health care system, our priorities favor profitability, not prevention. We have commercialized illness, making chronic disease profitable for the pharmaceutical industry. In our country, sickness sells, leaving us with very little incentive to promote preventative measures as a form of health care in a system that is badly broken. And as a result, our children are suffering.

That is why I am so deeply grateful for the efforts that you are making on behalf of the 30 million American children and why I want to lend my voice to your remarkable efforts, hopefully inspiring others with a message of hope this Mother's Day.

Thank you for taking responsibility for the health of our children and for the care that you are showing. In these uncertain times, hope is such a galvanizing force. As you crusade for the health of our children, please know that mothers around the country stand beside you and that our collective abilities can and will bring forth the change that our children deserve. Together, with facts and resources in hand, we can inspire a remarkable change in our food system and health.

With heartfelt gratitude and inspired hope,

Robyn O'Brien
Author, The Unhealthy Truth: How Our Food Is Making Us Sick and What We Can Do About It
Founder, AllergyKids
Mother of Four

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