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WASHINGTON (CAP) - First Lady Michelle Obama has fired the latest salvo in her battle against obesity, launching an "Obesity Poster Child" program that will call out one overweight child per week in a national ad campaign.
"It's easy to tell people to eat right, exercise and get outside instead of sitting in front of a TV or computer screen," wrote Obama in a press release on the new program. "But what will really drive the point home is an image of an actual overweight child whose life is bound to be hampered by poor health and social isolation, especially after his or her picture runs in every magazine and newspaper in America.
"Also on billboards," she added.
The pictures, to be snapped surreptitiously by prominent obesity photographer Lucas Earls, will feature children between the ages of approximately 7 and 13 who clearly meet the national standards for obesity.
"If they happen to be holding a corn dog at the time, all the better," said Earls, who plans to scour the entire country for subjects, but mostly Alabama.
Anticipating criticism about using photos of children, Sally Caruthers, spokeswoman for the First Lady's "Let's Move" program, noted that the organization would be obtaining written consent from the parents of each subject. Also, the photos will be taken from angles that accentuate the children's prodigious girth, not their facial features, she said.
"It's very likely that only their family and friends will be able to identify them," noted Caruthers.
The first subject, Olivia Funderburk, is an 8-year-old from Jacksons' Gap, Ala., approximately 3-foot-11-inches tall and 112 pounds. In ads set to debut nationally tomorrow, she's pictured at the Tallapoosa County Flea Market with a giant piece of fried dough hanging out of her mouth.
Under her image is the message, "Don't let your child end up like Olivia. At least not if you want grandchildren someday."
"I came up with that last part myself," noted Earls.
Asked by CAP News why they agreed to allow their daughter's image to be used in the program, Olivia's mother, Jessica Funderbunk, 27, noted, "Because she'll be on TV, duh!"
The Funderbunks have apparently already lined up several local endorsement deals based on Olivia's newfound fame, including from the flea market where she was photographed, a car dealership and a fried dough manufacturer.
The program has run into a few snags, however. USA Today has refused to print the ads, citing their policy of running only pictures of attractive people. And the Obamas' healthy lifestyle initiatives have never quite rebounded from President Barack Obama's ill-fated 2009 plea for healthier Halloween pranks.
But the First Lady remains undeterred.
"There are going to be obstacles. There are those who will disagree with our methods, and there may even be some humiliated children along the way," she wrote. "But if even one of those children puts down her Little Debbie Zebra Cakes and starts living a healthier lifestyle, it will be worth it."
Asked whether the program could encourage eating disorders among these girls when they reach their teen years, spokeswoman Caruthers noted, "That's a project the next First Lady can take on if she wants."
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