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.
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.
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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