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First lady's healthy-kids director knows toll of poor diet

Published:Thursday | August 13, 2015 | 12:00 AM
First lady Michelle Obama, accompanied by Lets Move! Executive Director, Deb Eschmeyer, second from right, talks with Oneida Gonzalez, 5, centre left, and Jefferson Lopez-Martinez, 5, centre right, of CentroNia Daycare Centre in Washington, D.C. as they help prepare food harvested from the White House Kitchen Garden along with fellow children from all over the country who participated in events with the "Let’s Move!" campaign.


Debra 'Deb' Eschmeyer was jobless and near penniless but excited about heading to Ecuador with her husband as Peace Corps volunteers. Then everything changed.

Jeff, the high-school sweetheart she had recently married, was diagnosed in February 2004 with diabetes, a lifelong and potentially debilitating illness.

After getting over the shock, Eschmeyer realised that, while it was too late to stop her husband from getting the disease, other people could be helped by cleaning up their diets.

The Ohio native started a produce farm in her hometown of New Knoxville that offers fresh fruits and vegetables to about 100 families a week, through a community-supported agriculture program. She later co-founded an organisation that sends volunteers into underserved schools to plant gardens and overhaul school lunches.

Seven months ago, Eschmeyer's path led her to the White House. She's the senior policy adviser for nutrition policy and, perhaps more important, the newest executive director of Michelle Obama's five-year-old initiative to reduce childhood obesity.