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US envoys seeks to bring Michelle Obama to Expo 2015

'Feeding Planet' dovetails with first lady's kids' eating drive

24 January, 13:38
US envoys seeks to bring Michelle Obama to Expo 2015 (by Emily Backus). (ANSA) - Milan, January 24 - The United States Ambassador to Italy on Thursday said he was working bring US First Lady Michelle Obama to Milan Expo 2015.

John Phillips pointed out that the world fair, whose theme is "Feeding the Planet. Energy for Life" dovetails with the first lady's concern for promoting healthy eating among children.

"I am working to bring to First Lady Michelle Obama to Italy in the context of Expo 2015 in Milan," Phillips said in Naples after a meeting with the governor of the Campania region, Stefano Caldoro. "There are obviously difficulties and other commitments, but given the importance of the theme, it is something that we will work on together, and we hope to be able to bring her to Italy".

Michelle Obama's Let's Move! campaign is focused on tackling an epidemic of childhood obesity in the United States through healthy eating and exercise.

The Let's Move! website says childhood obesity in the US has tripled in just three decades, and affects as much as 40% of some minority groups, like blacks and Native Americans.

"In the end, as First Lady, this isn't just a policy issue for me. This is a passion. This is my mission. I am determined to work with folks across this country to change the way a generation of kids thinks about food and nutrition," Obama is quoted as saying.

The first lady and her two daughters Malia and Sasha are likely to accompany her husband US President Barack Obama on a state visit to Rome and the Vatican on March 27. On the same day, Obama will meet with Pope Francis, Italian President Giorgio Napolitano and Premier Enrico Letta. The US president will be received by the pope to discuss their common fight against poverty and growing inequality.

Francis's interest in tackling world hunger and reducing waste has raised hopes among world fair senior officials and Milan's archbishop that the pontiff will also visit Milan Expo 2015.

The pope was formally invited to attend Milan Expo 2015 last Friday by a delegation including senior officials from the world's fair and Archbishop of Milan Cardinal Angelo Scola. Francis has delivered numerous messages about the importance of eradicating world hunger, reducing waste, improving nutrition and food distribution.

In a message to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Francis said that about one-third of the world's food production is wasted, adding "we need to modify our lifestyles including our eating habits".

Last month, in a video message for the Caritas Internationalis campaign against world hunger, Francis said that the world produces enough food for everyone, and so there is no justification for almost one billion people suffering from hunger.

"We cannot look the other way and pretend this does not exist," the pope said in December.

Pope Francis said he was "positively struck" by the opportunities for international cooperation and youth employment through Expo, a Vatican spokesman said last Friday.

Milan Expo organizers expect to create as many as 800 jobs for youth at the world's fair, including apprentices and on-the-job training in mounting special events.

"The Pope told us 'forward, forward'," said Archbishop of Milan Cardinal Angelo Scola, who met with Francis as part of a delegation that included Expo 2015 Commissioner Giuseppe Sala, and Diana Bracco, President of Expo 2015 SpA.

The delegation also included other Church officials from Milan as well as those working on the Holy See's pavilion at the world's fair that runs from May 1 through October 31 of 2015.

The issues that Expo aims to highlight, through the 141 countries and entities that have already signed on to participate, include examining food production, distribution and sustainability in the 21st century.

More than 70,000 businesses in the northern Italian region of Lombardy are estimated to be working on projects connected to Milan Expo 2015, according to a study released Thursday by the Monza and Brianza Chamber of Commerce.

In a survey of 900 Lombard businesses, the chamber of commerce found 12% of Milan businesses already involved in projects linked to the food-themed world fair, and 63% of entrepreneurs surveyed hoped to be involved with business generated by the event.