Michelle Obama challenges Republicans over child nutrition law
June 18th, 2014
07:39 PM ET
3 months ago

Michelle Obama challenges Republicans over child nutrition law

Washington (CNN) – First lady Michelle Obama is continuing to question Republicans who want to roll back some of the key provisions of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, telling a group of medical journalists on Wednesday "We're not even thinking about the possibility of rolling back because we just can't afford for that to happen."

The first lady said school nutrition has improved for the first time in 30 years and that 90% of schools are currently in compliance.

"You reach 90% success or completion - would you ever think well, let’s just stop now and start all over again because we've got 10% left to do?" she asked. "That's where we are right now and that's just unacceptable.”

“These standards are critical to the ultimate success of a generation of young people."

The House Appropriations Committee announced last month plans to let cash-strapped schools opt-out of the nutrition regulations via waiver. The change would come through the 2015 agriculture spending bill.

Signed into law in 2010, the nutrition bill established new requirements for the country's free or reduced-price lunch program. More than 30 million children qualify for the federally subsidized meals.

New standards included a reduction in sodium and a requirement that each student choose one fruit or vegetable in order to get the meal for free.

The law increased the reimbursement rate for school lunches as a way to help offset the higher cost of including more produce products.

According to the USDA the updated standards have already produced a number of positive results - kids are eating 23% more fruits and 16% more vegetables at lunch, food waste has not increased and school lunch revenue is up.

Sam Kass, the executive director of the Let's Move! initiative and senior policy advisor on nutrition, told reporters he's concerned about the consequences.

"The stakes couldn't be higher both in terms of the impact this can have on our children, the precedent that it's setting for putting politics ahead of our science and our experts on this and what we see happening from that is deeply concerning,” he said.

Kass also said they have extended the time for schools to sign up for the breakfast program. The new deadline is August 31.

Last month on CNN's Newsroom, Julia Bauscher, president-elect of the School Nutrition Association, said while they are not advocating a return to junk food, they want looser requirements on vegetables and fruits.

"We just don't want them to have to take it if they don't intend to consume it."

CNN's Ashley Killough contributed to this report


Filed under: Michelle Obama
soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. Liz the First

    Anything that improves education and makes smarter kids is a danger to republicans. they depend on their base staying stupid and uneducated. the minute folks stop listening to Faux Noise and start thinking for themselves, they see the republican party for the cesspool of hate and greed it is and become Democrats, or at least independents. Don't give up the good fight, Michelle! you've done more good in your time as First Lady than all your critics have done in their lives.

    June 18, 2014 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  2. Gunderson

    Chicken Little loose again?

    June 18, 2014 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  3. Raul Osuna

    Let me tell you what this "healthy" program is doing. It is giving kids less options at the schools. Cafeteria workers cant even add salt to some of the food leaving the food tasteless. The portions are very small. Even after eating many of my students are still hungry. Schools are not making kids fatter. Its the eating habits they get at home!!! What is the use of giving salads at schools if kids do not eat it. They rather go to the local liquor store and buy hot cheetos and a monster drink and call it breakfast. Even if schools do not supply fatty foods, kids still bring them anyways. What they should focus on more is giving enough calories in their meals so that kids do not go hungry. Also think that some kids may be athletes and they burn those calories in 30 minutes in the field. Kids like these need more calories. I know Michelle Obama has good intentions and all but she is not a nutritionist.

    June 18, 2014 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  4. LastoftheZucchiniFlowers

    While I understand the First Lady wanting the fruit/vegetable requirement, kids will do what they have to do to get the meal. Some will eat the fruit or vegetable and others might discard it. But maybe some child will try a new fruit or veggie? Maybe some child will bring that item home and eat it later or give it to a sibling or parent? There are other possibilities and there is no down side to requiring the kids to take the fruit or veg as a requirement for the free meal. Remember – for some of these kids, school is the ONLY place where they're getting a decent and hot meal for breakfast and lunch. Most of us find it hard to believe – but it's the sad truth.

    June 18, 2014 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  5. Chris-E...al

    I am a second hand veggie ? Cows eat grass i eat cows .

    June 18, 2014 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  6. HenryMiller

    A variatioon of my usual question: What article, section, and clause of the Constitution gives Congress the power to dictate school lunches?

    June 18, 2014 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  7. J Anthony

    There's nothing wrong with trying to get kids to eat better. It could take a generation to condition kids and society in general to adhere to a healthier diet. There are so many factors involved as to why its so difficult;spoiled kids, overindulgentparents, a junk-food industry lobby with political influence, an economy that thrives on endless waste and cosumption...anyone who has a problem with this is ignorant and just can't get past their hatred. Don't worry folks, you and your kids are still free to eat all the junk you want, hope you have health insurance.

    June 18, 2014 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  8. ghost

    I with you Mrs. Obama. EVER FORWARD – Future POTUS!!!

    June 18, 2014 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  9. Thomas

    Look at Sarah Palin and Ann Coulter they look hot , both eat and promote junk food .

    Yet , there husbands don't look happy !

    The only thing the government should be giving school children is Red Bull or Monster Energy Drinks , it's all about productivity .

    June 19, 2014 12:48 am at 12:48 am |
  10. Jen

    It still doesn't sound like there's much emphasis on eating real food. I'm guessing they're still using margarine?

    June 19, 2014 05:11 am at 5:11 am |
  11. sifto

    Maybe the white house can consume the food the kids have thrown out..if they do not like her food, they will not eat
    it...any parent knows that..this is a waste of time and food...

    June 19, 2014 05:50 am at 5:50 am |
  12. Minnie Mouse

    Aren't we all supposed to be eating fruits and vegetables in our meals? If we are giving the children a choice of what is really both supposed to go on the lunch plants then nearly all kids will pick fruit. So if your not trashing nearly 80% of the vegetables not picked, then are we feeding our children left overs the next day?? Food is going into the trash!

    I think the food needs to go on the kids plates with no options because then they might eat it. If your giving these children an choice to eat a vegetable or a fruit, we are telling them that it's ok to not eat one of them. This program will work but in time and while time goes on it will cost a lot of money from wasted food that could be going to children for nutrition an calories but instead we are not even putting it all on the plates where it needs to go.

    June 19, 2014 07:14 am at 7:14 am |
  13. Minnie Mouse

    "Lunch Plates", sorry not "Lunch Plants".

    June 19, 2014 07:16 am at 7:16 am |