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Michelle Obama’s School Lunch Program Under Fire Again

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The First Lady pushes for more health reform in school lunch programs, but receives plenty of backlash for her lobbying efforts.

School may be out for the summer, but the topic of school lunch program reform is a hot one in Washington, D.C. these days. This past school year was punctuated by angry parents upset that their kids were coming home from school hungry, tired and unable to make it through a day of classes and strenuous sports practices. These parents’ emotions were sparked by changes made at the behest of First Lady Michelle Obama to the federal school lunch program. The changes limit animal proteins and dairy fats, as well as sugar and sodium, and encourage more fruit, vegetables and whole grains.

READ: Where's The Beef In School Lunches?

While Obama probably had good intentions when she introduced these changes, the proof is in the gross pudding the kids are tossing away instead of eating -- it’s just not working.

 

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Recently, Obama defended the USDA rules she championed, telling Congress, “The last thing that we can afford to do right now is play politics with our kids’ health. It’s unacceptable to me not just as First Lady, but as a mother.”

However, the changes the First Lady is pushing on public schools don’t apply to her daughters Malia and Sasha, who attend a swanky private school that is exempt. In fact, the Obama girls reportedly are served foods not allowed on public school lunch menus; this includes foods like meatball subs, ice cream novelties, deviled egg salad, barbequed chicken wings, barbequed sliders, all natural beef nachos, baked three-cheese lasagna, pepperoni flatbread pizzas, cheese quesadillas, and chicken curry.

READ: USDA School Lunches Lack Protein Power

Now Congress is starting to see the light. Last week, a House committee endorsed a Republican plan to allow some schools to opt out of the new lunch standards, according to a recent Associated Press (AP) release.

“Some school nutrition directors have lobbied for a break, saying the rules have proved to be costly and restrictive. The House Appropriations Committee voted 29-22 to allow schools to opt out of the standards for the next school year if the schools are losing money on meal programs for a six-month period. A subcommittee approved the spending bill last week. Republicans have said the standards are overreach,” according to the AP release, which you can read here.

In an article that appeared on politico.com, Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL), House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture chairman, said, “It is clear to me that it is time for the administration to hit the pause button on the implementation of school nutrition guidelines and listen to the feedback — some of the rules are unworkable and having the opposite effect. I am hearing this from the school administrators as well as the students themselves.”

And, according to an article in The Foundry, Obama’s push to improve school lunches has ignored “major problems including the massive food costs incurred by schools, a major decline in student participation, plate waste, food storage problems, the need for new kitchen equipment, and lack of flexibility.”

Obama recently wrote an op-ed in the New York Times boasting how her changes have helped make America’s youth healthier. She wrote, “We are seeing glimmers of progress. Tens of millions of kids are getting better nutrition in school; families are thinking more carefully about food they eat, cook and buy; companies are rushing to create healthier products to meet the growing demand; and the obesity rate is finally beginning to fall from its peak among our youngest children.”

However, Ben Shapiro, senior editor-at-large for Breitbart News, challenges those claims and lists five reasons why her school lunch program is a giant fail. These include the fact that “childhood obesity rates are up since 1999; America’s youngest are super-fat; adult obesity is on the rise; the cost of school nutrition is rising; and kids aren’t eating school lunch.”

Clearly, America has an obesity problem, but I’m not certain that these USDA guidelines are the fix. It’s obvious the new school lunch program is falling flat, with kids wasting food, parents frustrated, schools losing money trying to implement the new changes, and a growing frustration among Americans wondering why the First Lady is telling us what to feed our kids. It’s time we vocalize our concerns to Washington, D.C. We can’t afford to shortchange our nation’s youth, and Mrs. Obama shouldn’t be playing politics with the health of our children.

What do you think about the school lunch program? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of Beefmagazine.com or the Penton Farm Progress Group.

 

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Discuss this Blog Entry 23

Greg Morris (not verified)
on Jun 4, 2014

What Malia and Sasha eat is not relevant. They are the children of the POTUS and obviously need the extra protection that can be found in a private school. In fact, to have them in a public school would be extremely disruptive.
More importantly, your claim that school children are rejecting healthy foods misses the point that children have been throwing away school lunches for years. Green Jello with shredded carrots has never been a real winner.

on Jun 5, 2014

The comment read that they were in a private school. Not that they should be in public school. Just the facts that Michelle's children get to eat a real meal unlike the public school children.

on Jun 5, 2014

Greg you missed the point of the article. No one argues that the kids of the POTUS need extra protection however the point is that why is their school exempt from the same laws that are affecting the majority of American children. Again this administration make laws for everyone else and exempt themselves. IF the government want to really fight obesity in the US then they need to remove high fructose corn syrup and corn syrup out of the foods. It is a proven fact that corn syrup causes cancer, obesity, diabetes and other diseases.
Also no one voted for Michele Obama so what is she doing setting policy. If she is worried about obesity then maybe she should go on a diet first and lead the way. she looks like she has gained about 50lbs since she has lived in the White House.

TexasLadyinCA (not verified)
on Jun 5, 2014

Exactly! And when did she become a nutritionist? I thought she was an attorney (but then who ever saw where she practiced?)

These people moved into the White House being far off any beaten path. They will disappear in a few years, after damaging everything they put their hands to, in a few years. If the US can only survive them, we will be far better off. He should be impeached, but then we know why he is not.

School lunches are disgusting, and few will eat them unless they are starving. Most kids throw away food like crazy. They have not been taught to eat well, and the school lunches taste bad and are not good for health. I work in a school. I see how bad they are; I see how tasteless they are; I see how kids opt out; I see how unsanitary they are; I see how limited they are. I tried eating school lunches myself. After a couple weeks, I was sick, and I stopped. I tried another time. I got diarrhea. I tried one more time, and I got diarrhea. Really? We feed our kids this? Most buy snacks, and although they are not good for them, I'd make this choice too rather than eat school lunches. They are disgusting.

W.E. (not verified)
on Jun 5, 2014

Texas, you too are missing the point. Every mother who cares anything at all about the health and well-being of her children makes some effort at being a nutritionist for the sake of the child, however misled she might be by all the advertising of non-food industrial garbage that passes for processed food these days. Your obvious bias undermines whatever other point you were trying to make. We too have also worked in schools and grew up eating public school lunches. When we were kids, sometimes our lunches consisted of pimento cheese, peanut butter, crackers, celery and carrots. Period. We ate it. Sometimes it was just spaghetti with tomato sauce, no veggies. We ate it. Sometimes it was delicious homemade yeast rolls and real butter. We definitely ate that one. The split-pea soup? Not so much. Even in those days when government commodity foods were the main source of school nutrition, some of the food was yucky. But not much was thrown out in our rural community, where parents still remembered the starvation days of the Great Depression. You are right that kids have been taught to be wasteful. The entire 21st century consumer economy has been built around the wastefulness and helplessness of consumers who no longer know how to produce anything. It should be up to local economies to support and supplement healthful school lunches with locally produced food. Instead, we have big corporations pushing cheap industrial food trucked from long distances with a long list of preservatives and additives no human being should consume. When did independent Americans get so helpless that the only food we know comes prepackaged with lots of preservatives? Mankind does not live by bread alone... nor should our children be raised on a diet of processed mac n'cheese and prepackaged frozen pizza rolls.
Local beef producers could be campaigning to supply their own school districts with nutritious local beef. The federal government would have a hard time fighting a movement like that. Locally produced whole cow hamburger would be affordable, highly nutritious and delicious. Most beef cows are grassfed. Beef like that would educate children and their taste buds, making fans of them for life. It would also nourish the brains of these kids, making them smarter, and reducing the number who are starving for high quality protein. No one has studied how many violent young teenagers and mass murderers have grown up eating diets lacking in high quality protein, but if someone would, a definite link would be found. Just look at the pictures of these young people, like 20-year-old Adam Lanza and dozens of others much younger. Many of their faces have the narrow, sickly appearance of unhappy or malnourished kids. You won't see faces like that on kids raised on cattle farms and ranches with plenty of high quality beef, fewer pharmaceuticals, more healthy food, and a productive purpose in life.

HD (not verified)
on Jun 5, 2014

President Carter’s daughter, Amy went to public school.

Mommay (not verified)
on Jun 5, 2014

your bias is showing. I and my kids liked green jello with carrots and pineapple and a dollop of salad dressing..and it provided a serving of fruits and veggies. I saw very little waste in the garbage.. Probably because there were no fast foods in the rural area or anywhere and parents believed kids should eat what was provided or go hungry. We have an entitled and undisciplined generation of parents and a fad diet, vegan fed bunch of the most unhealthy children I have ever seen. Give them some protein, breads made from scratch and a healthy serving of fruits and vegetables both at home and at school. Then get them out and active in between their concentrated technological learning.

idiot politicians (not verified)
on Aug 19, 2014

I have 2 children in the public school system, and the school is so overcrowded that even if they wanted to they could not get a lunch from the cafeteria because they wouldn't have enough time, because the line is so long. Parents, including myself have tried bringing sandwiches from Subway, which are healthier than what is served by the school. We were turned away by school faculty, stating they could not allow any fast food because of your hero Michelle Obama. So I guess it is best just to let them go hungry? Politicians should not be sticking their noses into what I feed my kids, perhaps if they spent more time on the things that really mattered, like the economy, our veterans, and many others, the country wouldn't be so screen up. As far as Mrs. Obama and her daughters, my response is, unless you have walked in my footsteps, don't tell me how to wear my shoes.

Rick S (not verified)
on Jun 5, 2014

Once again, another of Amanda's articles has more basis in a political agenda than fact. I am a sitting member of a public school board & we have seen zero of the issues she claims. We have met the new rules without student complaint & in fact, enjoy record satisfaction & participation rates.

I enjoy parts of this daily feed. Amanda's articles, however, I could do without. Ultimately, they will be the reason I discontinue receiving it.

Ed (not verified)
on Jun 5, 2014

HEY RICK------EARTH TO RICK.............Go look in the garbage cans in your lunch room. Since you are so proud to be a "sitting member of a public school board" and you eat with the kids in the lunch room each day. Nothing political about kids not liking food. Maybe you and your kids eat lettuce for every meal, the rest of the "REAL" world does not.

jay (not verified)
on Jun 5, 2014

I ate lunch with my kindergarten daughter. Chicken fingers, steamed broccoli, fruit and milk. My guess is that 70 - 80% of steamed broccoli was left on plate. And not because of a political protest. Add a little protein, put a little melted cheese on it

Karl (not verified)
on Jun 5, 2014

Rick, I see just the opposite at our school. Many more kids bring their own lunch that they did previously, and the cooks say that much more food is being thrown away than in the past. I'm thinking that your school is the exception not the rule on this school lunch business.

TJK (not verified)
on Jun 5, 2014

This is an example of typical communist/ socialist behavior! It's good for the people but doesn't apply to the communist. Her children are exempt, and judging by recent photos, so is she. America needs to wake up and get the government out of our lives and the lives of our children. They continuously reach further and further into our lives and tell us that they need to take control because we are incapable. She is taking beef off the menu effectively hampering our industry while her husband continues to kill jobs by running industry, research and development and jobs out of the U.S. WAKE UP AMERICA! This administration continues to push the climate change, global warming or whatever they are calling it today- IT'S a means of killing whatever other growth potential the US has by taxing us to death. Carbon foot print?? Last I remember, CO2 is part of the crebb' s cycle. They are positioning themselves to charge us with a tax for the methane gas our livestock give off, next they will be banging on our doors telling us that we need to cough up cash for the amount of methane and CO2!that we and our families are giving off. The cows are their first step and it will not stop there- they will never have enough of OUR tax dollars!
Government needs to get back to its job -protecting the people of the US- period!
They need to stop getting involved in everything we do. If they were so effective running businesses, the Post Office and VA would be doing great! Oh yeah! Let's let them run healthcare for the entire country! Are you kidding?!!

Ed (not verified)
on Jun 5, 2014

There is are problems with the new foods our first lady wants to shove down our childrens throats. If they do not like it or eat it, what good did the change do? About as much good as the speech we were given 6 years ago about "HOPE and CHANGE". Wheres the beef?

cattle farmer (not verified)
on Jun 5, 2014

Rick your full of it, I have 3 kids in school and they take their lunch because they are starving from these ridiculous lunches. Also on another lunch subject about 60% of the kids in our school receive free lunches from the government, so I pay the full price for my kids and for some of the others as well, what a waste. Good job reporting the facts Amanda.

shaun evertson (not verified)
on Jun 5, 2014

America doesn't have an obesity problem. Fat people have an obesity problem. This includes kids. No one is holding a gun to their heads and making them eat cheetoes. That's reality. For those locked into the emotion-driven psychosis of demanding that the world be the way they want it to be, reality is the enemy. The problem isn't with potus or flotus or their offspring. The problem is with sovereign Americans abdicating their responsibility and authority and letting a bunch of cartoon characters run the world.

Jules (not verified)
on Jun 5, 2014

Call me old school, I guess. But why can't we go back to basics? I grew up in the rural community where the average high school had 400 students grades 9-12. We had one menu option for each day, and a milk choice (regular or chocolate). You either ate what was provided or you packed your lunch. Our lunch ladies could take canned and frozen food items and make them pretty decent. In fact, some lunches were as close to homecooked as you could get. It seemed to work. Well, years later when my daughter was in school, she had all kinds of choices for lunch. And, as expected, most kids took the typical bad choices -- chicken nuggets, fries or pizza -- on a daily basis! I didn't like what I was hearing about, so from 6th grade until the time she graduated from high school, we packed her lunch. She still maintains a healthy weight today, but back then, I could ensure she was getting something healthy and tasty and in the amount her body required for physical activity. Why can't schools go back to this basic concept? It would seem that putting a focus on making one really good tasty meal for the day versus having several options would make sense and it would save money. And, if the kids didn't like the option (lunch menus are usually printed in advance), they can make other arrangments. As for low income families who rely on school lunch programs; I would imagine having one tasty nutritious meal each day (even if it didn't contain tons of choices) is still a big plus. I guess my simple logic is just that....too simple. Oh, and I can remember the refrigerated apple vending machine. For 10 cents, you could get a juicy apple out of a vending machine! Kids loved those apples, too. Now they have those squeezable apple sauce pouches...this might be a good option to have in the schools, too, if the price per pouch is reasonable.

John R. Dykers, Jr (not verified)
on Jun 5, 2014

I agree with Jules. also Mammy who said "parents believed kids should eat what was provided or go hungry". Wasting food is inexcusable. The only reason not to eat what is served you is an allergy.
I can't tell you how many parents in my practice whined that the children did not eat supper so they gave them a cookie! "They have to have SOMETHING!" And the kids got fat and malnourished.
Sure, BEEF ought to be a part of the week's menu. That is sound nutrition. And I am a Taft, Ike, Goldwater, Reagan Republican and know the general slant of this President and First Lady is way off base and intrusive, but the basic idea of more veggies and less fat/grease and starch is a sound premise.
johndykersmd@dykers.com

JJ (not verified)
on Jun 5, 2014

I eat lunch with my son once a month at his small rural school. I've seen the food quality greatly decrease and the kids are so limited on what they can choose that most aren't eating or are bringing food from home. The new policy has the school's hands tied.

Bob V (not verified)
on Jun 5, 2014

Most of the comments sound like a regurgitation of Fox News. It's time to start worrying about obesity and stop complaining about everything that doesn't come from your political base. Kids are fat today in part because they don't eat right. Improving school lunches is at least a step. Why does food get thrown away? Because kids aren't used to food that isn't deep fried, covered in faux cheese or sugar. Their taste buds will adapt and then the food won't go to waste. I can only assume that most of you that have commented would prefer that we continue to feed kids large quantities of fat, sugar and carbs to keep them happy.

Amanda, if you bother to read the comments...your stories that are political are uniformly poorly researched and appear to be more of a cut and paste from right wing blogs. Use your college education and actually research your "political" pieces (hint: that means doing more than taking everything said on Fox News or from Rush Limbaugh's mouth as the Gospel truth). America needs accurate news not just more unsubstantiated political gossip.

Anonymous Beef Farmer (not verified)
on Jun 5, 2014

Thank you Bob for a voice of reason.....to add to your comments: Amanda might want to cut-and-paste something about the 10 fattest US states being predominantly Republican "This is no coincidence: Republicans promote policies that tend to entrench poverty, and obesity and poverty often go together. The Republican-dominated states where obesity rates are the highest are states where one is more apt to find more poverty, weak union protection, an abundance of people who lack health insurance and a strong opposition to the Affordable Care Act of 2010."

Anonymous Joe (not verified)
on Jun 5, 2014

How are Americans and America served by a partisan argument in Washington, DC about child nutrition? That bunch can not even agree on how much less women are worth than men. How many votes does the First Lady have in approving a farm bill? Didn't a Republican majority pass the farm bill in the House? How do her two daughters figure into the approval of a farm bill?

The problem with obesity and the American diet is that the editors of Ladies' magazines and physicians have magically become expert nutritionist. We should be listening to people trained in the science of nutrition who have no political or special interest agenda. That science will explain why protein, via red meat, is essential to a balanced, nutritional, healthy and non-obese diet.

Have you ever asked your doctor how many nutrition courses he/she had in med school?

Alvie Ben Christensen (not verified)
on Jun 5, 2014

I am a father of five kids and they all tell me that the Michelle Obama lunches are nasty. They are either packing lunches or throwing their lunches away regularly. Often, our son calls telling us he just couldn't eat the lunch that day and my wife has to run to school to provide him lunch. Our kids are starving when they get home (Even if they ate the school lunch) and devour us out of house and home when they get home for the day. None of our kids are obese and are involved in sports/excercise/farm work year round. Our school has some obese kids but most are not obese. Why punish the school districts where exercise is working in their schools and the majority of children are not obese? I think you could have two school lunch lines. One for un-healthy weighted children and one for healthy weighted children. This would promote children(Nation-wide) to exercise, control their weight, and control their "goody eating habits" at home to get in the "Good tasting line". Another option would be if a certain percentage of the student body tested below a certain % body fat, that school would be exempt from the bad tasting Michelle Obama Lunch. Why not give the nation's children a goal to shoot for instead of the local school lunch program sitting back with their hands tied with political action against them for not being able to serve what the kids will eat(and I am not saying to feed the kids a plate full of goodies). The nation's youth is getting more obese than when I as a kid. It was the same lunch being served before the Obama change that I was served as a kid and the youth were getting more obese on the same lunch than my generation. This leads me to believe, it was not the school lunches that were causing the obesity. It is other factors that is causing the obesity problem of our nation. (Such as playing video games and not exercising; I as a father, discourage constant video game playing to my children)

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