Battling the obesity crisis with a ravenous blue monster and singing vegetables.
The childhood obesity rate has tripled in the past 30 years. Presently, 1 in 3 children in the United States is overweight or obese.
Sesame Street is committed to reversing this trend by connecting with preschoolers when they are forming their eating, exercise, and hygiene habits, and setting them on track for a lifetime of wellness.
It turns out that Sesame Street’s furry friends have a remarkable ability to promote better choices. A 2010 study concludes that when children are shown fruits and vegetables linked with favorite Sesame Street characters, they choose those foods at a much higher rate — and eat more of them. Even broccoli.
Since 2004, we have been integrating messages about healthy food choices and exercise into Sesame Street as part of our Healthy Habits for Life initiative. In a recent show and public-service announcement, our Sesame gang gets some help from First Lady Michelle Obama. Mrs. Obama pops by to plant a vegetable garden with Elmo, explaining how foods you grow help you grow up big and strong, like her and Big Bird.
In another memorable show, Sesame Street is transformed into a ’50s musical, American Fruit Stand, in which Miles sings “I Love Fruit” (a parody of “I Feel Good”), a song about how good fruit tastes and how good it is for the body. Watch “American Fruit Stand.” Through our educational outreach efforts, we’ve been able to extend the impact of these health messages to even more children.
In 2006, we delivered a multimedia outreach program to child-care providers that included in-classroom activities, simple recipes, a storybook, and a DVD featuring a game show hosted by Elmo. In the program, fruits and vegetables literally talk back to their pint-sized critics, advising kids to “Eat your rainbow!” and “Move your body!” When the materials were researched with child-care programs, 98 percent of providers reported that children either “improved” or “greatly improved” their food choices during participation in the program.
In 2009, we extended the program’s reach by distributing outreach kits to families who are most at risk; over 4.5 million Healthy Habits bilingual multimedia kits were made available through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which serves over 9 million mothers and young children each month across the country.
Parents eagerly embraced the kit’s messages about nutrition and enjoyed using Sesame language, such as a “sometime food” (cookie) and an “anytime food” (apple), to motivate their children to make better choices. As one mother said, “Now I can tell them why they can’t have that cookie…it’s a sometime food!” Watch Cookie Monster in “Cookie Is a Sometime Food.”
Our latest endeavor: helping families and children with particularly limited resources to make healthy choices. Small budgets and healthy eating can make for a challenging recipe, but the multimedia outreach kit Food for Thought: Eating Well on a Budget gives parents and caregivers the confidence that it can be done. Freezing leftovers, looking for sales, and tapping into community resources are just some of the simple healthy habits that can help stretch a budget.
The kit provides not just education but also much-needed emotional support, helping families cope with the stresses and challenges that come with limited access to food, while encouraging them to have a positive outlook.
To date, almost 6 million families and childcare centers have received a Sesame Street Healthy Habits or Food for Thought outreach kit.
Through our continued outreach efforts, shows, and other initiatives, we’re working toward making healthy habits an ingredient in every family’s life.
Nemours Health & Prevention Services; KidsHealth.org; UnitedHealthcare; Merck Company Foundation; National Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Association; Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; National Association of Family Child Care (NAFCC); U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Content also distributed through WebMD.
- Families using our Healthy Habits for Life kit report a significantly greater willingness to eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lower-fat milk (up 10–18%).1
- 45% of parents say their children talk about “healthy” topics, such as eating more fruits and vegetables.2
- Almost 6 million families and childcare centers received a Sesame Street outreach kit, while reaching “countless” Sesame Street viewers.3
2 KidPoint LLC. (2009). Healthy Habits for Life Child Care Resource Kit Evaluation Report, Unpublished report.
3 Sesame Workshop project records, 2011.