The PJ Tatler

Michelle Obama Calls It 'Unacceptable' for Congress to Worry About Edible School Lunches

First lady Michelle Obama called congressional efforts to cut school districts some slack on strict nutritional standards “unacceptable to me not just as First Lady, but as a mother,” while the Alabama Republican backing the bill said lawmakers’ efforts are being mischaracterized.

“It’s really not opt out. They’re granted a one-year waiver. And it’s only for the schools that are finding it hard to meet,” Rep. Robert Aderholt told CNN. “What is happening as more students are not eating the food, the participation is going down. And the students that are eating it are throwing the food away. And you’re seeing just a tremendous amount of waste.”

“A lot of schools operator on a very tight budget. They’re having trouble meeting — financially trying to meet the standards that are required by them by this act and by the USDA as they are telling the schools what they have to do,” he added. “This is saying if you’re having a problem, that you can ask for a waiver and the USDA can grant you a waiver.”

Aderholt said the rules intended to ensure kids get nutrition they may not be getting at home are “onerous.”

“I was reading an article a couple of weeks ago where a school in Illinois decided to completely get out of the program because a bald egg does not meet the standards that are coming out of USDA. And anything over 12 ounces of skim milk has too much fat in it for these standards,” the congressman said.

“So we’re not talking about, you know, feeding hamburgers and hot dogs and pizza every day to the kids. The nutritional workers in these lunch rooms, they want to provide healthy foods for their kids. They’re wanting to do the right thing. And it’s not like they’re trying to make the kids obese.”

Michelle Obama, though, said at a roundtable yesterday with school leaders and nutrition experts that “so many kids write me every day” about the “health crisis in this country.”

“And so many families are looking for help now in their efforts to find new ways to feed their families balanced meals,” she said. “So moms and dads don’t want their efforts undermined when they send their kids off to school. Parents have a right to expect that their kids will get decent food in our schools. And we all have a right to expect that our hard-earned taxpayer dollars won’t be spent on junk food for our kids.”

“And with kids, it takes them a second to change their habits. We know that. Look, my kids growl at me every time we sit at the dinner table and there’s fish,” she added. “So we know that it’s tough to change the habits of kids, but that can’t be the reason why we start rolling these back.”

Aderholt said with “very little catsup, very little salt, the food is not tasty anymore.”

“The kids are not eating it. They’re going to McDonald’s. They go into — they’re bringing foods that are not half as healthy as the normal lunch program and it’s killing the program,” he said. “And a lot of these schools are having problems. And all they’re saying is we just are having problems. We’re asking for a waiver for 12 months to see if we can try to meet these standards.”

“That’s all we’re doing. We’re not asking to completely roll back the standards.”