Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Michelle Obama's Food Fight

Michelle Obama - along with many others - is seriously concerned about America's weight and health problems. And she is committed to combating those challenges by focusing on children. It was with that focus that she led the food fight for increasingly rigorous nutritional standards in the National School Lunch Program. The primary focus of reform of school lunches is on reducing consumption of calories, fat, sugar, and sodium. While this approach/solution seems pretty straightforward to the casual observer, the issue of food quality and its connection to "weight" is far more complicated.

The problem with changes to the food program is, basically, that kids do not want to eat the food, and school cafeterias are losing money. This has led some schools across the country to "opt out" of the school lunch program. And they have made this decision knowing they will lose federal funding for meals and more. The reality is that schools will not stay with a program of meals that kids refuse to eat. And, despite what Michelle Obama likes to claim, students are still throwing away a lot of food. And now legislators are joining the cause, introducing a bill which would allow schools waivers from the new nutritional standards. The movement to delay and roll back nutritional standards is not simply a way of pushing back against the federal government and the Obamas … but it can seem that way.

Yesterday, the First Lady decided to fight back in the food fight. Mrs. Obama sought to make this all about the children, as she noted she will not back down on plans to bring "better" nutritional standards to school lunches. However, the battle over school lunches is not simply a matter of calories, fat, sugar, and salt. And there is certainly no value to serving - even force feeding - food that kids don't want to eat. Certainly, schools need better education on nutritional choices. And they need better offerings in the cafe.

But simply restricting menus is not going to do the trick.

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