School cafeteria workers say First Lady Michelle Obama’s latest criticism that they are serving up junk food to children is “offensive,” and they are fighting back.
As Paul Bedard at the Washington Examiner notes, Patti Montague, chief executive of the School Nutrition Association (SNA), said in a letter to the White House, “It is offensive to America’s frontline cafeteria professionals to say that those who struggle with the national decline in school lunch participation have simply said, ‘Well, the kids like junk food, so let’s just give ’em junk food.’ Our members are not offering their students junk food.”
“The government continues to perpetuate the fiction that 90 percent of school cafeterias are successfully meeting the federal nutrition standards being debated by Congress,” Montague wrote on the SNA website. “The government’s own data shows that after 30 years of steady growth, the National School Lunch Program is experiencing an abrupt decline in student participation across 49 states.”
Montague added that SNA members want relief from the “onerous regulations” of Obama’s school lunch program, which, she believes, “will lead to fewer students receiving healthy school meals, more food being thrown away and many school meal programs in financial straits.”
During a White House “Drink Up” event last week, the First Lady discussed the benefits of water consumption and added, “So make no mistake about it, when we make a real effort to promote healthy products, when we put as much energy and creativity into marketing healthy products as we do for junk food, then kids actually get excited about these products, and families actually buy them and consume them. “
Obama attributed the little success her school lunch program has had to school districts that “actually put some effort into marketing the new meals to the kids. They didn’t just sit back and say, well, the kids like junk food so let’s just given them junk food.”
“Instead, they embraced higher standards and more nutritious options, and they worked hard to get the kids excited about them,” the First Lady said.
At a Senate hearing this week, however, SNA president Julia Bauscher spelled out the problems faced by school cafeterias as more students refuse to purchase lunches while the funds to pay for the expensive new menus dwindle.
“Despite our best efforts to make meals more appealing, schools nationwide have also struggled with student acceptance of new menu options,” Bauscher said in her testimony. “As of July 1, all grains offered with school meals must be whole grain rich, but many schools have been challenged to find whole grain rich tortillas, biscuits, crackers and other specialty items that appeal to students.”