In a New York Times op-ed published late Wednesday, First Lady Michelle Obama pushed back against "new efforts to lower nutrition standards in our schools" from some members of Congress. Obama, who has made an initiative to introduce more nutritious foods into schools the leading focus of her time as First Lady, wrote that "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."
Obama's op-ed addresses several recent volleys from her opponents on the issue of kids and nutrition, but the piece is probably pegged to one recent development: both the Senate and the House Appropriations Committees have recently approved measures that would re-introduce white potatoes into the Women, Infants and Children food assistance program. The program provides vouchers that can be used to purchase a long list of fresh, nutritious foods. That list currently does not include white potatoes. But thanks in part to the lobbying efforts of the potato industry, some members of Congress would like to intervene and mandate that the popular produce be included in the program. Obama wrote:
Now, there is nothing wrong with potatoes. The problem is that many women and children already consume enough potatoes and not enough of the nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables they need. That’s why the Institute of Medicine — the nonpartisan, scientific body that advises on the standards for WIC — has said that potatoes should not be part of the WIC program.
Unfortunately, this isn’t an isolated occurrence. We’re seeing the same kind of scenario unfold with our school lunch program.
Obama goes on to imply that the current machinations in Congress on several government nutrition programs resemble the legislative body's notorious decision to pronounce that the tomato sauce on a piece of pizza counts as a serving of vegetable. "We already spend an estimated $190 billion a year treating obesity-related conditions," Obama writes. "Just think about what those numbers will look like in a decade or two if we don’t start solving this problem now."