The first lady is taking on members of Congress who are trying to scale back federal nutrition guidelines for school meals.
In a New York Times op-ed, published Wednesday evening, Michelle Obama, who has focused on childhood obesity and nutrition as part of her Let’s Move! initiative, said “some members of the House of Representatives are now threatening to roll back these new standards and lower the quality of food our kids get in school.’’
The nutrition rules require more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in school lunches, and sets limits on fat, sodium, and sugar. The rules were set by the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.
In her op-ed, Obama took aim at an effort by House Republicans to allow schools to waive the standards, saying it undermines the efforts of parents “who are working hard to serve their kids balanced meals at home.’’
A House subcommittee approved a bill last week to allow schools to opt out of the rules if they have a net loss on school food programs for a six-month period, according to the Associated Press. The House Appropriations Committee is expected to take up the bill this week.
Obama also addressed efforts to change the food requirements of the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program — a supplemental nutrition program for low-income women and their young children. Obama said an effort by House Republicans to have white potatoes added to the list of qualified vegetables in the program would “override science.’’
The op-ed was Obama’s latest move to defend the healthy food guidelines and respond to critics of the school meal initiatives. On Tuesday, Obama met with school nutrition officials who said the guidelines are working, the AP reports.
The event was an unusual move for the first lady, who has largely stayed away from policy fights since she lobbied for congressional passage of a child nutrition law in 2010.
"The last thing we can afford to do right now is play politics with our kids’ health," Mrs. Obama told participants.
In her op-ed, Obama touted Let’s Move!, saying the initiative relied on “the most current science’’ in developing “evidence-based’’ measures to improve school lunch menus, get physical activity into child care centers, and work to get fresh food retailers into underserved areas.
She charged that lawmakers in Washington need to use “accurate information based on sound science’’ in making decisions about children’s health.