Michelle Obama fights GOP on school lunch rules

First Lady battling House Republican effort to soften a central part of her anti-childhood obesity campaign
Associated Press
Jul 6, 2014

First ladies typically avoid getting into public scraps, but Michelle Obama has jumped into perhaps her biggest battle yet.

She's fighting a House Republican effort to soften a central part of her prized anti-childhood obesity campaign and she says she's ready "to fight until the bitter end."

Mrs. Obama even mocked the GOP effort in an opinion column and argued her case before her Twitter followers.

"Remember a few years ago when Congress declared that the sauce on a slice of pizza should count as a vegetable in school lunches?" she wrote in The New York Times. "You don't have to be a nutritionist to know that this doesn't make much sense. Yet we're seeing the same thing happening again with these new efforts to lower nutrition standards in our schools."

Mrs. Obama lobbied largely behind the scenes four years ago for the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which requires more fruit, vegetables and whole grains in school meals, along with less sodium, sugar and fat. It was a major achievement, the first update to school lunch rules in decades designed to make school meals more nutritious.

The School Nutrition Association, an industry-backed group that represents school cafeteria workers and originally supported the standards, has now turned against them. The association says it fully supports getting kids to eat healthier but says many districts are losing money because students aren't buying the healthier lunches.

More than 1 million fewer students eat lunch at school each day since the first round of standards went into effect in 2012, following decades of steadily increasing participation, said Diane Pratt-Heavner, a spokeswoman for the association. A second round of rules, including standards for school breakfasts, took effect July 1.

"How can we call these standards a success when they are driving students away from the program?" she said.

Her group wants more flexibility for districts that are losing money. A House bill to fund the Agriculture Department next year would give districts a chance to apply to skip the requirements for one year.

Rep. Robert Aderholt of Alabama, the Republican author of that measure, said the lunch rules go too far and came too fast for school districts to handle.

"As well-intended as the people in Washington believe themselves to be, the reality is that from a practical standpoint these regulations are just plain not working out in some individual school districts," he said after a House panel approved the bill. A vote by the full House is expected after its July Fourth break.

The first lady and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, whose department runs the school meals program, oppose changing the law.

Critics of the association say the about-face is motivated not only by overburdened school officials but also by the food industry. Food companies are some of the association's highest-paying members and supply schools with most of their food. The industry largely has kept silent through the debate but will spend millions of dollars to reformulate many products to meet the new standards.

"The last thing that we can afford to do right now is play politics with our kids' health, especially when we're finally starting to see some progress on this issue," Mrs. Obama said at the White House, where she met with a group of school nutrition experts, all of whom were friendly toward the standards.

The association requested a meeting with Mrs. Obama and Vilsack. Instead it was invited to sit down next week with Vilsack and Sam Kass, a White House chef who is executive director of the first lady's anti-obesity initiative, along with representatives from a dozen other organizations that favor the standards.

The first lady's publicly aggressive approach against Congress and the school nutrition association stands in stark contrast to the quiet lobbying she did early on, and to her handling of earlier controversies. Her approach has been to bite her tongue and not comment in the heat of the moment.

"She very, very strongly believes in the anti-obesity initiative, and I think she sees the attempt by Congress to roll back the 2010 legislation as just being anathema after trying very hard to change the culture of what we see going into these institutional lunches," said Myra Gutin, who studies first ladies at Rider University.

Mrs. Obama says the requirements are based on sound science and that 90 percent of schools are meeting them. The association says districts are unprepared to meet the newest standards.

"I'm going to fight until the bitter end to make sure that every kid in this country continues to have the best nutrition that they can have in our schools," the first lady said at a White House event where she showcased elementary school students preparing and then eating a salad lunch using vegetables they had planted in her garden on the South Lawn.

The White House has threatened to veto the House bill. The Senate version does not include the one-year waiver.

Comments

Contango

"Study: School lunch veggies, fruit end up in trash":

http://www.ctpost.com/local/arti...

FLOTUS: Always wrong about Soviet-style central planning, but never in doubt.

grumpy

Expect racist and hater comments, instead of folks commenting on what the studies have found to be uneaten by the kids involved. It is better to offer things to the kids they will throw away instead of what the kids will eat. Maybe the kids should be "forced fed" so they will eat as commanded by the gov't. (sarcasm)

deertracker

You two don't get it! What is wrong with promoting healthy eating? Take a look around you. America is unhealthy and needs to address it. Kids have never enjoyed veggies but parents have to be parents. Let them throw away the healthy food and go hungry. That's how it used to be.

Kids are not in charge. Parents are. Act like it.

ladydye_5

There are kids that do eat healthy. The stuff the schools are feeding them is DISGUSTING. Would you eat cut up pepper and tomato, in a bowl with nothing else but that, as your veggie? NO salt/pepper. No dip. No nothing. Just a pepper and tomato in a bowl. My kids eat veggies. But as an adult even I would not eat a pepper and tomato in a bowl.
"Let them throw away the healthy food and go hungry"......yep waste the school money, federal grant money, and the parent's money. That is brilliant.

deertracker

I have no clue what you are talking about. A pepper and a tomato in a bowl?
Be a responsible parent and feed your kids healthy foods and if they don't eat it they can be hungry. Tough love does work sometimes.

Just let them eat and drink whatever they want and whatever happens, happens right? That's really poor parenting!

MY kids ate what we fed them or they got nothing. They were not in charge!

ladydye_5

Yes, our school puts a cherry tomatoes and a cut up green pepper in a bowl and calls that the veggie of the day. No salt and pepper anymore, no ranch dip, no nothing. As an adult I would not even eat that. There are other options than that. Nothing like wasting the governments money, the schools money and the parents money. Everyone wants to scream and cry about wasted tax money....there it is...in the trash can.

deertracker

Pack your kid's lunches! Problem solved!

ladydye_5

double post

Contango

Re: "Let them throw away the healthy food,"

H*ll, the federal govt. is ONLY $18 trillion in debt (and growing) with tens of trillions more in potentially unfunded earned and unearned entitlement liabilities. What's a few trillion more, eh?

swiss cheese kat

did you take a bong hit before you posted this?

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Check out the Sidwell Friends School lunch menu for what the kids of Congress and the Presidency eat.

I have no doubt that Marie Antoinette was very well meaning when she said, "Let them eat cake." What else did she know people to eat? Her husband, too, had the best of intentions when he declared, "I will go it alone."

Oops, meant to say "L'etat c'est moi." I got my unpopular but well intentioned kings mixed up there. Sorry grumpy. Sarcasm can be cathartic though can't it?

grumpy

Sarcasm, irony, and satire are acquired tastes. It was practiced in my house when we grew up and took seed early. When my family gets together it gets real thick real fast.

jazzbo

Let's give them candy instead , right ?

coasterfan

Studies show that, if it's good for you, or a pro-health initiative, conservatives will fight it. Yes, let's follow their lead, and be pro-obesity and pro-diabetes. And let's not forget their pro-coal mining stance that leads to lung disease and a contaminated water and air supply? The list is endless. Most of their anti-government regulation initiatives are also anti-safety in nature.

Yes, let's consider what it means to be a Republican in 2014: ignore the fact that our stance on many issues shortens our lives, all in the name of personal freedom.

Me? I'd rather be free to lead a long healthy life, and thank those politicians (mostly Democrat) who place a higher priority on policies that make healthy living possible.

Contango

Re: "Studies show that, if it's good for you, or a pro-health initiative, conservatives will fight it."

"Studies show"? LMAO!!!!

So d*mn funny, that I couldn't read past the first sentence!!!

To quote you: "Please feel free to infuse a few facts (in)to your rants,"

swiss cheese kat

did you take a bong hit before you posted this?

coasterfan

In Contango's alternate reality, Republicans don't fight any/all government regulations that would force businesses to keep our water and air supply clean. The BP oil spill never happened, no one opposed nationalized health care, no one opposed limits on purchases of sugar-sweetened soft drinks in NYC, and no conservative politician has ever campaigned on anti-government regulation platform.

My point is that you didn't cite any "studies" in your first post. My 2nd point is that the things I mentioned in my reply are so readily obvious and observable by everyone that no citations are needed. Sorry dude, but your party has a deplorable record on environmental/safety issues. It's not up for debate.

Rolls eyes....

Darwin's choice

The only thing "obvious" is the spoon fed rhetoric of your "party" you constantly bemoan!
Sorry dude, but your party has failed in everything you've been called out on, yet you keep blabbing your propaganda.

obama/failed

Contango

Re: "no citations are needed."

You think it, therefore it is? LMAO!!!

Smacks heavily of solipsism.

To quote you again:

“Please…provide scientific evidence and/or results from research studies that support your viewpoint.”

- coasterfan, 3/13/14

SamAdams

Should kids eat healthy foods? Absolutely! So should the rest of us. That being said, there are a host of other things that play into whether or not we eat the ideal meal at every setting. Is it available? Can we afford it? Do we like it?

If it's too expensive for many schools, and if the kids won't eat it, you've got two virtually insurmountable strikes right there. Of course, expense and individual desire mean nothing to the Obama administration. THEY know what's best for you! I agree that schools shouldn't serve Twinkies for lunch. But what's wrong with pizza? There are plenty of ways to make it healthier! What's wrong with a burger, especially prepared with lean meat and fresh toppings? Why can't a kid enjoy a taco with some beans on the side?

I don't object to educating children as to healthy eating (more than a few parents could use the lessons, too). I don't object to having fresh fruit available for snacks and the like. I DO object to force feeding (which is what this has become) and I CERTAINLY object to the waste of taxpayer dollars for foods that end up in the trash! The government one-size-fits-all regulations only make matters worse (a varsity football player, for example, REQUIRES more calories than does the chess club president).

Instead of being a resource for education via the National Institutes of Health, the Surgeon General's office, etc., the government insists on playing Big Brother (actually, more like Big Mother), a role it shouldn't -- and was never intended to -- play. Let schools educate and decide. Let kids learn and decide. Let parents do their jobs. BUTT OUT, Michelle!

coasterfan

It's FAR less expensive to do things that prevent future health problems than it is to treat the long term health problems that result from poor diet. If conservatives truly were concerned about the deficit, they would be in favor of pro-health initiatives.

This isn't a surprise. Everyone knows that it's better to spend money building schools than on building prisons, yet Republicans can always be counted on to vote down funding for Education.

The point is that parents AREN'T doing their jobs teaching healthy eating to their kids, because they don't exercise and have poor diets THEMSELVES. It's well-documented that the current generation of children will be the first in American history to live shorter, less healthy lives than their parents. Michelle is doing something to address the problem. Conservatives, as usual, are doing nothing....other than pointing fingers.

Contango

Re: "The point is that parents AREN'T doing their jobs teaching healthy eating to their kids,"

So it's the State's job to replace the parents?

Perhaps the State should institute Soviet-style fat camp re-education gulags?

FORWARD SOVIET!

Dr. Information

Whats Michelle going to do next, force McDonalds to offer more healthy food?

This plan, just like every other Obama plan has failed. Schools are losing money, which in turn comes back to the taxpayer for more support.

Stop the government madness.

deertracker

Another idiotic comment right on que!

jazzbo

Dr. Information-

Everything you said in your comment is nuts.

Contango

Re: "Another idiotic comment right on que (sic)!"

"Cue," nitwit.

The Big Dog's back

So deuce pooh, what's your solution to get parents to get their kids to eat healthier?

Contango

Re: "your solution to get parents to get their kids to eat healthier?"

So why are you fat, a smoker and out of shape with a pacemaker?

What happened to you; poor upbringing?

More govt. AIN'T the answer.

The Big Dog's back

So other than your deuce laying, you have no answer. Just as I thought.

Contango

Re: "you have no answer."

Only in socialistic societies do the central planners need to try to figure everything out.

Free societies let individuals choose. Just like you chose to get fat, smoke and eventually wear a pacemaker.

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