By Dennis Archambault
Michelle Obama has responded to the Agriculture Department’s position which effectively reverses much of the work that the former first lady did to create progressive school nutrition policy during the Obama administration years. And she didn’t coat her language: “Think about why someone is OK with your kids eating crap.”
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced this month that school meals would no longer have to meet some requirements connected with Obama’s initiative to combat childhood obesity by reconstituting the nation’s school meal menus. The nutrition regulations were part of the “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 and advocated through the “Let’s Move” campaign, created by Michelle Obama as first lady.
Perdue argues that the regulations add costs to school budgets and waste – students aren’t eating the food. “If kids aren’t eating the food, and it’s ending up in the trash, they aren’t getting any nutrition – thus undermining the intent of the program.
“You have to stop and think, why don’t you want our kids to have good food at school?” Obama said recently at a public health summit. “What is wrong with you? And why is that a partisan issue? Why would that be political? What is going on? … Take me out of the equation – like me or don’t like me. But think about why someone is OK with your kids eating crap. Why would you celebrate that? Why would you sit idly and be okay with that? Because here’s the secret: If someone is doing that, they don’t care about your kid.”
A lot of people have worked very hard, against multiple odds, to change policy and change behavior in our troubled educational environment. The MOTION Coalition, which organizes around the issue of childhood obesity, advocates policy that reinforces good nutrition and eating behavior, not the other way around. To have this reversed in a single action hurts – not just the egos of advocates, but the youth of America who have become less fit and more prone to diet-related disease than ever.
Obama, who represents a model for healthy parenting for many women in American, responded to Perdue’s assertion: “How about we stop asking kids how they feel about their food because kids, my kids included, if they could eat pizza and French fries every day with ice cream on top and a soda they would think they were happy, until they get sick. … You know what? Kids don’t like math either. What are we going to do? Stop teaching math?
Dennis Archambault is vice president, Public Affairs, at Authority Health.