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Michelle Obama speaks out about childhood obesity during N.O. visit

New Orleans, La. - First Lady Michelle Obama took the stage at the Morial Convention Center, Tuesday, to sound off on what she describes as a critical issue across America -- the rise of childhood obesity.

"The truth is for so many of us, food is love, right? I mean, applause for food is love," she said. "While food might be love, the truth is that we are loving ourselves and our kids to death."

Obama delivered her remarks before annual conference of the National Council of La Raza, the nation's largest Hispanic advocacy group.

"Right now, nearly 40 percent of Hispanic children in this country are overweight or obese. Nearly 50 percent are on track for diabetes -- 50 percent -- nearly half our kids," Obama said. "Compared to white parents, nearly five times more Hispanic parents report that safety is a barrier to their kids being active and Hispanic kids ages 9-13 are only half as likely to participate in organized physical activity outside of school."

Jorge Plasencia, Board Chairman of the NCLR, is hopeful the First Lady's speech will make a difference in the Latino community.

"We have over 5,000 people (in attendance at the conference) and each one of them can become delegates of sorts to promote healthy eating in their community, and that was her message," Plasencia said. "Her message was -- now when you all go back home, you know, from sea to shining sea, make sure to go back and tell folks in your communities that they gotta eat healthy."

The issues are impacting children of all races, however.

That's why the First Lady is calling on families to send a strong message to companies selling unhealthy foods.

"We all know that the food industry has some serious work to do when it comes to how they market food to our kids, but here's the thing, ultimately, we all have the power to decide whether or not to actually buy those foods," Obama said. "We need to step up. We need to own this as a serious problem in our communities. We need to admit that what we're doing simply isn't working anymore, and we need to start questioning the behaviors and beliefs that are making our kids sick."

While she's passionate about the message, Obama is also quick to point out -- everyone deserves a treat once in a while.

"Special occasions call for special foods and treats. Treats, for children, are an important part of childhood. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a treat hater," she said."I eat a balanced diet and I work out every single day of the week with very few exceptions, but let me tell you something, while I am here in New Orleans today, everyone understand, there is no way I am leaving the city without a good meal. No way, not happening."

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