Michelle Obama is about as open to rolling back the healthy school lunch policies she championed as kids are to eating their vegetables. After the GOP introduced a House bill last week that would ease the rules, Obama said Tuesday that the effort was "unacceptable" to her, both as the first lady and as a mother.“We have to be willing to fight the hard fight now,” she said during a meeting with five school nutrition leaders, according to Politico. “Rolling things back is not the answer.”
Obama was a big supporter of the Healthy and Hunger-Free Kids Act, which created new, whole-grain and vegetable-heavy dietary restrictions on school lunches. Kids have complained about low calorie counts and being forced to take vegetables they end up throwing away. Conservatives have called it a government takeover of public school lunches, and school nutrition authorities have argued that in some places they're seeing lower sales. The House bill would waive the nutrition requirements if schools are losing money under the mandates.
The House bill has the support of the School Nutrition Association, a large trade group, which supports increased flexibility argues that plate waste is a huge problem. However, reports from the Associated Press and the Government Accountability Office have found that some schools are managing the new requirements well and kids are eating the healthier food. Also, 90 percent of school districts are meeting the standards, according to the Department of Agriculture. The bigger concern for schools is the next waive of requirements, which increases the whole grain requirement and lowers the sodium limit. The GOP bill waiver would also excuse schools from those requirements.
Despite support from people who'd like to see more salt and less grain in cafeterias, the bill has also raised eyebrows over additional funds for a new summer lunch pilot program that would only benefit rural low-income students. But then, maybe urban kids should be happy — the House doesn't want to invest more money in forcing them to eat fruits and vegetables.