Washington Examiner falsehood: "$373 million in stimulus money for better vending machine food"

››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

On October 14, The Washington Examiner ran the false headline, "Michelle: $373 million in stimulus money for better vending machine food." However, Michelle Obama, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Examiner article itself contradict the headline; HHS will award $373 million to communities through a competitive grant process for "comprehensive" programs -- one component of which could include healthier vending machine food -- that would "reduce obesity."

Wash. Examiner: "Michelle [Obama]: $373 million in stimulus money for better vending machine food"

From an October 14 Washington Examiner headline:

washexaminer

Wash. Examiner article contradicts headline

York writes that $373 million to be spent on "plans to, among other things, improve the healthfulness of foods in vending machines" [emphasis added]. In the first paragraph of his October 14 article, chief political correspondent Byron York wrote that Michelle Obama "touted HHS's recently-announced plan to spend $373 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act on plans to, among other things, improve the healthfulness of foods in vending machines." York further contradicted the Examiner headline later, writing:

"Congress and the president included $1 billion for prevention and wellness programs in the Recovery Act," she told the crowd of cheering DHS workers, "and that includes funding for initiatives that will give communities the resources they need to address the obesity epidemic in their communities. This includes $373 million announced last month that would be available for communities that put together comprehensive plans to reduce obesity -- $373 million -- and that would include everything from incentivizing grocery stores to locate in underserved areas; it could include improving meals at school; to getting more healthy, affordable foods into vending machines; to creating more safe, accessible places for people to exercise and play; and a whole lot more."

Last month HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that the $373 million in stimulus money will be the "cornerstone funding" of the Recovery Act Community Prevention and Wellness Initiative. The announcement was an invitation to groups around the country to apply for grants under the program, which will be called Communities Putting Prevention to Work. "Funded projects will emphasize high-impact, broad-reaching policy, environmental, and systems changes in schools (K-12) and communities," the HHS announcement said. "For example, communities will work to make high-fat snack foods and sugar-sweetened beverages less available in schools and other community sites and to use media to promote healthy choices. In addition, funded communities will be encouraged to provide quality physical education in the nation's schools and enact comprehensive smoking bans."

Michelle Obama: $373 million for "comprehensive plans to reduce obesity"

Michelle Obama: $373 million "available for communities that put together comprehensive plans to reduce obesity." In her October 13 speech, on which the false Examiner headline is based, Michelle Obama did not say that $373 million is solely available for "better vending machine food." Rather, she cited "getting more healthy, affordable foods into vending machines" as one component of a possible "comprehensive" plan to "reduce obesity." From the White House's transcript of her remarks:

That's why Congress and the President included $1 billion for prevention and wellness programs in the Recovery Act


(applause) -- and that includes funding for initiatives that will give communities the resources they need to address the obesity epidemic in their communities. This includes $373 million announced last month that would be available for communities that put together comprehensive plans to reduce obesity -- $373 million -- and that would include everything from incentivizing grocery stores to locate in underserved areas; it could include improving meals at school; to getting more healthy, affordable foods into vending machines; to creating more safe, accessible places for people to exercise and play; and a whole lot more.

But in the end, of course, our government and our communities, as you all know, we can only do so much. There's only so much policy and even money can do. And no grant program can sit at the dinner table with a child, right, and convince them to eat what they're supposed to eat. (Laughter.) But we say in my household, "Just eat it." (Laughter.) "You're not going to like it. Just finish it." (Laughter.) "Get on with it." (Laughter.) No grant program can make sure that the kids step away from the TV and set down those videogames and figure out a way to move their bodies. Ultimately all of that is up to parents and families. Ultimately we're the ones who influence our kids.

HHS: "projects will emphasize high-impact, broad-reaching policy, environmental, and systems changes in schools (K-12) and communities"

From a September 17 HHS press release:

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today announced a funding opportunity for communities and tribes to apply for $373 million in cooperative agreements for the comprehensive public health initiative, Communities Putting Prevention to Work, to be led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"This initiative will make disease prevention and health promotion top priorities in states and communities across the country," Secretary Sebelius said. "Preventing disease is vital as a strategy to improve our nation's health and reduce health care costs."

Communities Putting Prevention to Work will change systems and environments -- for example, improving access to healthy foods and opportunities for physical activity -- and putting into place policies, such as clean-indoor-air laws, that will promote the health of populations. Funded entities will have two years to complete their work.

The $373 million in cooperative agreements will be awarded to communities through a competitive selection process. The cooperative agreements will support evidence-based prevention strategies foryouth and adults and will promote partnerships across communities and sectors.

The remainder of the funds for this initiative will be made available in the coming weeks to states, territories, and organizations to support, extend and evaluate the reach and impact of the community projects.

Funded projects will emphasize high-impact, broad-reaching policy, environmental, and systems changes in schools (K-12) and communities. For example, communities will work to make high-fat snack foods and sugar-sweetened beverages less available in schools and other community sites and to use media to promote healthy choices. In addition, funded communities will be encouraged to provide quality physical education in the nation's schools and enact comprehensive smoking bans.

"The CDC is excited to have this opportunity to help states and communities do more to deliver proven prevention strategies, in ways that reach whole communities and populations," said CDC Director, Thomas Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. "Chronic diseases linked to obesity, poor nutrition, physical inactivity, and tobacco use are the leading causes of death and disability in our nation. These additional resources will improve the quality of life for millions of Americans."

HHS: $373 million for physical activity, nutrition, decreased smoking, among others

HHS program website lists achieving an increase in "physical activity," "improved nutrition," decreased obesity, tobacco use, and secondhand smoke as intended outcomes. From HHS' website for the Communities Putting Prevention to Work initiative:

The cornerstone of the initiative is the Community Program ($373 million), with cooperative agreements to be awarded to communities through a competitive selection process.

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will support evidence-based community approaches to chronic disease prevention and control in selected communities (urban and rural) to achieve the following prevention outcomes:

Increased levels of physical activity;
Improved nutrition;
Decreased overweight/obesity prevalence;
Decreased tobacco use; and
Decreased exposure to secondhand smoke.

  • Communities will implement a set of evidence-based interventions related to the behaviors listed above which aim to achieve broad reach, high impact, and sustainable change. The specific amount of funding per community will be determined by a mix of interventions, population size, ability to reduce health disparities, and likelihood of success.
  • Communities will assemble an effective communitywide consortium with a history of working with partners such as local and state health departments and other governmental agencies, health centers, schools, businesses, community and faith-based organizations, academic institutions, health care, mental health/substance abuse organizations, health plans, and other community partners to promote health and prevent chronic diseases.
  • This component also includes a robust support plan to ensure funded communities are successful and that the communities are able to evaluate the impact of their efforts. The plan consists of a three-pronged approach: program support, community mentoring, and evaluation.
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Byron York
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