by Marion Nestle
May 29 2014

Historic! First Lady and President actively support school nutrition standards

Today, the House Appropriations Committee will discuss the annual spending bill for the Agriculture Department, meaning that it will consider proposals to weaken nutrition standards for school meals.

In what has to be a groundbreaking move, First Lady Michelle Obama has an Op-Ed in today’s New York Times.

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. They want to make it optional, not mandatory, for schools to serve fruits and vegetables to our kids. They also want to allow more sodium and fewer whole grains than recommended into school lunches.

…Remember a few years ago when Congress declared that the sauce on a slice of pizza should count as a vegetable in school lunches? You don’t have to be a nutritionist to know that this doesn’t make much sense. Yet we’re seeing the same thing happening again with these new efforts to lower nutrition standards in our schools.

Our children deserve so much better than this.

Yes, they do, and how terrific that she is saying this.

Also a must read is ObamaFoodorama’s account of the President’s position on all this.  From White House press secretary Jay Carney:

It is “inappropriate to let politics and pressure from the food industry” change federal law.

“The President and First Lady both feel very strongly about the need to continue moving forward when it comes to school nutrition and not allowing politics to pull us backward,” Carney said.

Carney made his comments during a gaggle aboard Air Force One when asked about the President’s “reaction” to the First Lady’s event on Tuesday with school nutrition pros.

For a nutritionist like me, this is history in the making.  Cheers to both and let’s hope their efforts work.

Addition, June 2:  If you cannot understand why the School Nutrition Association is pushing for the waiver and elimination of the rules, see Jerry Hagstrom’s lucid explanation: they don’t cook.

When the school-lunch program started, most schools cooked their own food. As the number of children participating in the school-lunch program grew, the need to provide more food led the schools to buy prepackaged, processed food, which led to the companies making those foods becoming big players within SNA. Under the new rules, those companies have to come up with tasty products with less salt, sugar, and fat and use whole grains. At the same time, the fruit and vegetable requirements—which bring more business to the United Fresh Produce Association—threaten to take up more of the school-lunch budget.


  • ollie baer jr

    Except the kids aren’t eating it! So it’s better to have a starving child then one that doesn’t eat completely healthy?

  • NECroeus

    I’m in the middle on this. It certainly not in the interests of the children’s health to feed them junk/processed food, but I don’t like Michelle Obama forcing kids on the Ornish Diet. There are cultures who don’t eat vegetables at all – the Inuit, Masai, etc., – who manage to be very healthy. There are a number of books out just recently by Nina Teicholz and Denise Minger revealing what a fraud the diet advice in the last 60 years in this country has been.

  • Vik Khanna

    How completely absurd. The First Kids have first class meals prepared for them at an elite WDC private school, while public school kids are being fed dreck that they don’t want to eat.

  • Patricia Katia Murillo

    What we need is well equipped kitchens and good recipes. I eat very healthy, delicious food that I cook from scratch, and have to mention that have a very good reputation as a cook. When I see pictures of school lunches which consist of ray carrots, pepper strips, raw broccoli, etc, I feel so sorry for the students. I would give them an awesome, delicious gaspacho instead!! We should learn from the Italian, French, Japanese, etc. experiences with school lunches. But I am afraid we are to chauvinistic to accept that we can learn from them. Has anyone seen Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown on Lyon? I found a transcript of the school lunch part:

    “… This was Daniel’s old elementary school in a nearby town.

    I’m automatically taken back to memories of my own school days. The smell of caustic pine cleaner, chalkboards and fear. The cruel ministrations of tiny-eyed lunch ladies slopping can loads of prison chow into steam tables. Tuna noodle surprise that haunt my sense memories still.

    UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pumpkin soup today with onion, nutmeg and chicken stock. Basic good pumpkin soup.

    BOURDAIN: This is Marie, head chef, cook, host and server for 320 hungry and very discriminating French schoolchildren ages 3 to 12. On the menu, prefix today, pumpkin soup, homemade cous-cous and a sauce supreme.

    (on camera): This is a very sophisticated meal for children. I was a little — in school, frankly. Like a lot of other students, I want pizza, pizza, pizza, are the children here open to variety?

    UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want to make sure they always get a little challenge by how the food looks and the smell and also, the taste after. I think she has a very strict budget.

    BOURDAIN (voice-over): In the USA, greatest country in the world, no doubt, we spend an average of $2.75 per student for public school lunch. Compare and contrast.

    UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It’s $1.50.

    BOURDAIN (on camera): Did you eat this well when you were here?

    UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely. Bon jour.

    BOURDAIN (voice-over): The kids attack their food like hungry trenchermen, wiping out three servings in the time it takes me to eat one. I guess they like it.

    (on camera): It’s good. This is good.

    UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don’t think my chef in New York would do better.

    BOURDAIN: These kids eat fast. Look how fast this kid eats. Turn your head, he’ll dish your food right out of your plate. Push up your tray just like in prison, move it along. Move it along.

    UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They come to you and serve you. Most important thing that we see here is the love Mary give to the food she make and to the kids she serves. I think it has a lot to do with the reaction they have to food.

    BOURDAIN (voice-over): Dessert is homemade fromage blanc, cheese with chocolate and orange segments.

  • Patricia Katia Murillo

    If a kid is really starving, he/she will eat what is served. I know, because I have worked with very low income populations in Latin America, where people really starve. They would find offensive the use of ‘starving child’ to refer to a kid who just doesn’t want to eat any food.

  • StellaBarbone

    The Ornish diet? My mom must have invented the Ornish diet because she made us eat vegetables long before Dean Ornish went to medical school. The Masai have extensive atherosclerosis, but compensate with a lifestyle of almost continuous movement (aka “chronic cardio” in the paleo world).

    Teicholz and Minger are not researchers and haven’t “revealed” much of anything. Minger has also written a blog post that criticizes … Gary Taubes. Eek!

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  • Deb Hartig

    I am tired of all the accolades the universities & media give the Obama’s and their empty speeches. The Obama’s “actions” have done serious harm to the entire nation. Our schools are suffering from a serious lack of money while the Obama’s spend it on lavish vacations!

  • TR

    The Inuit eat raw fish, seal and whale to make up for the lack of Vitamin C in cooked meats. So, you think we should be serving raw meat to children?

  • TR

    The serious lack of funding the schools are sufffering has preceded the Obamas.

  • In the 60’s cooks made dinner rolls, cinnamon buns, yes, tuna noodle supreme, COOKED from scratch.. in 70’s started the powdered tator, pizza, schools got kickbacks from coke and pepsi allowing machines in halls along with Nabisco etc, snack machines, then in 80’s paid lunch money for son, visited in UT school to see him choose a pkgd cracker,ham,cheese tray get in store in lunch meat section, cooks?? they open cans, get frozen trays out of freezers, like mac&cheese ie 24 serving size. Made in factories where FDA allows 10% dirt, mouse droppings, hair etc. As a home cook, son by junior high refused to eat at school, especially memphis, TN. Mableton,Ga had good food mostly. Listen to kids, then check out the lunch, it may be better to send homemade. At least in Ogden,UT and Memphis, TN. TN so bad I started buying Burger King when joining him, (bad) but only took me one meal at school to make that decision!!! Challenge-Put your mouth where your voice is now, dare you, go to your local grade school, jr. high, call day before and give a kids name stating family member and may you join for lunch and how much, go… dare ya… and I will pray for you that school lunches are tolerable and doesn’t make you wish you’d spent money on 1.49lil burger at Burger King