First Lady Blasts Republicans For Wanting to Loosen Her School Lunch Program's Strict Nutritional Mandates

In an oped today at The New York Times, First Lady Michelle Obama blasted Republicans for wanting to allow schools to opt out of the strict nutritional mandates her unpopular school lunch program imposes. 

Back in 2010, Congress passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which set higher nutritional standards for school lunches, also based on recommendations from the Institute of Medicine. Today, 90 percent of schools report that they are meeting these new standards. As a result, kids are now getting more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and other foods they need to be healthy.

Yet some members of the House of Representatives are now threatening to roll back these new standards and lower the quality of food our kids get in school. They want to make it optional, not mandatory, for schools to serve fruits and vegetables to our kids. They also want to allow more sodium and fewer whole grains than recommended into school lunches. These issues will be considered when the House Appropriations Committee takes up the annual spending bill for the Agriculture Department on Thursday.

Republicans in congress aren’t the only ones who have a problem with the strict nutritional mandates.

Not mentioned in the first lady’s oped is the fact that the School Nutrition Association is also in favor of more flexibility in the school lunch program as opposed to a one size fits all approach.

SNA President Leah Schmidt told the Washington Post that “SNA’s request for flexibility does not come from industry or politics. It comes from thousands of school cafeteria professionals who have shown how these restrictive regulations are hindering their efforts to get students to eat healthy school meals.” 

Schmidt’s organization disputes administration claims that the program has been a success. “The administration’s own data shows that student participation is abruptly down in 48 states,” Schmidt said in her e-mail to The Post on Monday. “The White House needs to hear from the majority of school cafeteria professionals who are struggling to make these new standards work.”

Schmidt said her group supports the waiver as a temporary solution until Congress considers renewal of the school food law, which expires in 2015. 

And of course, the nation’s schoolkids have also registered their disapproval of the First Lady’s school lunch program on Twitter, Youtube and elsewhere.