Tags: Michelle | Obama | school | lunches | op-ed

First Lady: We Can't Play Politics With Kids' Health

By Cathy Burke   |   Wednesday, 28 May 2014 11:37 PM

Michelle Obama has intensified her criticism of the Republican-dominated House of Representatives for trying "to undo so much of what we've accomplished" in an anti-obesity initiative — including tweaks to the school lunch program.

In an op-ed column in Thursday's New York Times, the first lady argued "glimmers of progress" could be jeopardized because of proposed legislative changes.

The scolding comes a day after Mrs. Obama met with school nutrition officials, warning "The last thing we can afford to do right now is play politics with our kids' health."

In her op-ed, the first lady first decried a proposed House bill "to override science" by mandating white potatoes be included on the list of foods that can be bought with dollars from the federal Women, Infants and Children program, known as WIC.

"The problem is that many women and children already consume enough potatoes and not enough of the nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables they need," she wrote.

She then charged a 2010 law setting higher nutritional standards for school lunches is under attack by a GOP bill to roll back school lunch rules.

"Today, 90 percent of schools report that they are meeting these new standards," she writes. "As a result, kids are now getting more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and other foods they need to be healthy."

"Yet 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" by making it optional, rather than mandatory, "for schools to serve fruits and vegetables to our kids," she complained.

She said the proposed changes would also allow "more sodium and fewer whole grains" than recommended for school lunches.

"When we began our Let's Move! initiative four years ago, we set one simple but ambitious goal: to end the epidemic of childhood obesity in a generation so that kids born today will grow up healthy," she wrote.

"To achieve this goal, we have adhered to one clear standard: what works. The initiatives we undertake are evidence-based, and we rely on the most current science."

The first lady declared "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."

She urged lawmakers to put children first when considering any changes to nutrition programs.
"The bottom line is very simple: As parents, we always put our children's interests first," she writes. "…when we make decisions about our kids' health, we rely on doctors and experts who can give us accurate information based on sound science. Our leaders in Washington should do the same."
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