First lady bucks GOP on lunch

Michelle Obama vows to fight for 'best nutrition' programs for schools
FIT Staff
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 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 on Twitter.

"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 healthie,  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, citing federal data. 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.

Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.

 

Comments

Donegan

Because they care about the children... Just like her husband waived the law that banned support to regimes that use child soldiers. http://washingtonexaminer.com/ob...
Remember its for the children....

sugar

It's not about caring it's about control. Someone tell this nosy woman to go to the illegal immigrant camps to save the children there.

coasterfan

Nah....Michelle is no different from any other First Lady. They all have a pet project to help Americans in some way. Only a true cynic would think that it is about control. What on earth gave you that crazy idea?

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Withholding funds from local schools for not obeying Federal "suggestions" seems pretty controlling. If only it were contained to just that, though. There is a lot that shouldn't be done on that level that is and always the carrot dangled in front of local and state agencies is a piece of the seemingly-unlimited money we can conjure on the Federal level. The intention isn't about control, yet the actions point to that being the case. Which are we to believe? Sentiment or result?

Contango

Re: "What on earth gave you that crazy idea?"

The "crazy" control freak FLOTUS:

"Help lift us up, help us fight this fight to change, - transform - this country in a fundamental way."

Justwow

LOL Michelle O towel head......

jazzbo

.

The Answer Person

Laugh all you want loser.
THEY are in the White House.
NO ONE in YOUR family will ever be!
Who's laughing now?

Contango

Yes, the Incompetent-in-Chief reassured us and himself of that 'fact':

"I won."

jazzbo

Maybe he wanted to make sure you got the memo.

How do you feel about : " Im the decider" ?
http://www.dailymotion.com/video...

Contango

And I should care what Mr. Bush said why?

Deflection, off-topic & old news - NEXT!

deertracker

You lost pooh! LOSER!

Contango

Re: "LOSER!"

As a school drop out that's something that you're an expert in, right pippy?

There you go again

"First Lady F$&@s GOP on school lunch rules".

Maggdi

Is there really a second article in as many days about the sainted Michelle Obama having the courage to take on the evil GOP on a subject that is better left to local school districts? Some who have forgone federal funds because so much food was being wasted because the children wouldn't eat it.

The Answer Person

So you like 300 pound little girls?

Contango

Re: "So you like 300 pound little girls?"

A nonsensical straw man argument.

So public school lunches are causing children to become obese? They never eat outside the school?

ladydye_5

Eating ONE meal a day in school is the only cause of obesity? Has nothing to do with the other meals, snacks and food kids eat the other 17 hours out of the day???? The walk to school or the walk home? The stop at the local 7/11 to get chips and a Monster? If you think eating this "healthy" lunch at school will cure the obesity problem in America you are in for a rude awakening. Maybe she should look at reinstating Gym class and recess too. She could also put some restrictions on the Food Stamps. Only be allowed fruits, veggies and whole grains, just like the school lunches.

dontknowmuch

School lunches aren't the root of obesity

FalconBall

That's the key. The lunch lady has limited dumpster space for those fresh fruits and vegetables. It's tough to feed the over-fed. Kids cry because their peaches have a red part to them (most have never seen a fresh peach). Kids complain because their potato is baked and not French fried. If kids were hungry they would eat carrot sticks, cucumber slices and fresh fruit but they can always wait to get home for a trip to fast food or a box of Little Deb's.

coasterfan

I think the point is this: we know that many kids have poor eating habits all day long, and we know that many parents don't parent their children. We also know that we can't control what they put in their mouth at home (Republicans would cry "Big Brother"). We also know that throwing up our hands and doing NOTHING to address the issue may be the GOP way, but it's not going to solve anything.

What we CAN do is make more healthy choices in the offerings we provide in public schools. Michelle is merely advocating smart, healthy eating in a forum where we CAN exert some influence.

This is such a small issue - and a very positive-minded one - it boggles the mind that some people are so vehement in their disapproval. If Laura Bush had made the same recommendation, they, of course, would give their tacit approval. So, their comments say a lot more about them than they do to paint an accurate picture of Michelle.

She is on the same side as schools and medical experts. If the GOP chooses to play the role of "bad guy" and oppose the common sense initiatives she is advocating, that is their choice.

Contango

Re: "common sense initiatives,"

Per usual, you confuse "common sense," with looney lefty, expensive big govt. "feel-good NONsense."

Corollary: Trillions of dollars spent on enforcement and decades worth of education have garnered almost zero effect on U.S. drug usage.

Think outside the Marxist box.

The Answer Person

You are terminally boring...but you are a Republican after all.

dontknowmuch

Common sense would tell her to address the sugary, fattening chit that can be obtained through a SNAP card. There's the root of the problem, but that would send the voting block into a tizzy if they were told to buy healthier things with a SNAP. Nitpicking schools is easier to do.

deertracker

You can't control which foods a person buys just because they receive assistance. Some kids' main meal is the one the school provides. That is why she targets those meals. You just want to go after the poor in a not so subtle way.

It's really simple. If you have a problem with school lunches, pack your kid's lunch. Problem solved!

Contango

Re: "Some kids' (sic) main meal is the one the school provides."

So children are becoming obese by eating one solitary meal per day and nothing on the weekends?

Are you gullible or what, pippy? lol

deertracker

The main point of the proposal is to offer healthier school lunches. No one said obesity is caused by school lunches. Stay on point. Your constant deflection of the topic at hand proves you have no real argument. It only makes you look unintelligent and partisan.

Contango

Re: "No one said obesity is caused by school lunches."

From the article:

"She (Mrs. Obama) very, very strongly believes in the anti-obesity initiative,"

In what grade did you quit school? Did you never get your GED?

You obviously have difficulty reading, pipsqueak.

Contango

Re: "pack your kid's lunch,

The FLOTUS thinks that parents are incompetent now by not providing them with healthy food and now you want them to take the initiative to pack a lunch?

H*ll, mom's probably busy out scoring drugs or turning tricks.

Are you gullible or what, pippy? lol

The Big Dog's back

I wouldn't trust you to pack a kid's lunch pooh. It would contain Kesslers and beer.

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