WASHINGTON — First lady Michelle Obama on Thursday tapped FoodCorps co-founder Debra “Deb” Eschmeyer Executive Director of her “Let’s Move!” initiative and Senior Policy Advisor for Nutrition Policy. Eschmeyer replaces Chicago native and Obama family personal chef Sam Kass, who resigned last month.
Kass, a graduate of the University of Chicago Lab School, started cooking for the Obama family when they all still lived in Chicago. He joined the White House at the beginning of President Barack Obama’s first term in 2009 and transitioned into a key food policy role. Kass moved to New York where he lives with his wife, MSNBC host Alex Wagner.
“For more than a decade, Deb has been leading the way in teaching kids about the importance of healthy eating,” Mrs. Obama said in a statement. “From classrooms and gardens to kitchens and farms, Deb has made learning about nutrition fun and accessible for kids across the country. I am thrilled that she will be continuing this important work here at the White House, and I know she will be an invaluable addition to our team.”
Background, from Mrs. Obama’s East Wing: “As Executive Director of Let’s Move!, Eschmeyer will lead the First Lady’s work to help America raise a healthier generation of kids and ensure that all kids have the opportunity for the long, healthy lives they deserve. As Senior Policy Advisor for Nutrition Policy, she will also advise on food and nutrition issues beyond Let’s Move!”
White House Biography of Eschmeyer: “A dedicated and tireless champion for children’s health, Eschmeyer created public-private partnerships to collaborate with diverse stakeholders to combat the epidemic of childhood obesity and food insecurity. Eschmeyer co-founded FoodCorps, a national AmeriCorps service program that places emerging leaders into schools in limited-resource communities for a year of public service. Throughout the year, FoodCorps service members teach hands-on lessons about food and nutrition; build and tend school gardens, teach cooking lessons; and help change what’s on school lunch trays, giving kids healthy food. In her role as Vice President of External Affairs, Eschmeyer helped build FoodCorps into a 182 member corps serving in 16 states and DC that supports the National School Lunch Program’s healthier guidelines ensuring kids eat the healthy school food on their trays, and lays the essential groundwork for children to build lasting relationships with healthy food.
“Fortune and Food & Wine recently selected Eschmeyer as one of “The Most Innovative Women in Food and Drink” permanently changing the way we eat and how we think about food. Eschmeyer is a recipient of the James Beard Foundation Leadership Award and the Xavier University Magis Award in recognition of her exemplary school food reform efforts and commitment to public service. Prior to FoodCorps, she served as a W.K. Kellogg Food and Community Fellow and as Communications and Outreach Director of the National Farm to School Network where she created One Tray, a national campaign to improve federal child nutrition programs.
“Growing up on a dairy farm in rural Ohio, Eschmeyer was ingrained at an early age with an appreciation for how nutrition policy meets the plow. In conjunction with her policy work, she started a fruit and vegetable farm in New Knoxville, Ohio, with her husband. ”