First lady Michelle Obama’s quest for healthy school lunches sparked a backlash today from the very people who are served the grub in cafeterias across America.
The campaign went viral when students took photos of their lunches and shared them on Twitter using the hashtag #ThanksMichelleObama.
— Jess Sency (@Jess_Sency) November 18, 2014
For the past several years, ever since Congress passed and President Obama signed a 2010 measure to impose federal regulations on school lunches, the first lady championed the new standards for schools.
— I hate winter (@izzysmardz07) November 21, 2014
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, the agency responsible for implementing the regulations, defends the 2010 law as an “opportunity to make real reforms to the school lunch and breakfast programs.” The agency said the photos “do not fully reflect the full range of choices students are provided.”
— Amber Schroeder (@aureviorlune) November 21, 2014
Critics of the standards, like Daren Bakst, want students to have more options. “Parents, not the government, know what’s best for their children,” says Bakst, a research fellow in agricultural policy at The Heritage Foundation.
— Zoë (@zoesappingfield) November 21, 2014
That’s not all, says Bakst. “The new standards have created massive food waste, increased food costs and federal micromanagement.” He supports a waiver process to let schools opt out until Congress can reconsider the 2010 law.
— josh russell (@josh_emerson) November 21, 2014
An independent report published by the Government Accountability Office earlier this year revealed widespread concerns with the federal regulations. “Officials from an incredible 48 states indicated that plate waste was a challenge for at least some of their local school food authorities (SFAs) in making the lunch changes,” The Daily Signal reported. “Food costs and menu planning were right behind, cited by 47 states’ officials.”
— Kendrick (@KendraPohlman) November 21, 2014
Michelle Obama, in a May op-ed for The New York Times, boasted that “Today, 90 percent of schools report that they are meeting these new [lunch] standards.” She used the opportunity to criticize Republicans for attempting to make changes to the law.
— Erin Harris (@Erin1Harris) November 21, 2014
This isn’t the first time students have taken to Twitter to complain. Similar photos surfaced in April.
— Marissa Garrett (@marissajgarrett) November 19, 2014
Just last month, a pregnant Oklahoma student prompted local news coverage of her meager lunch (below). Even the school’s superintendent agreed the lunch was unacceptable: “My own kid comes home and the first thing he does is raid the refrigerator. You’ve got, in some cases, little kids that their only two meals are breakfast and lunch at school and they’re getting … a grand total of 1,100 calories. That’s not enough.”
A study from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that “Nearly 6 in 10 [students] put a vegetable on their tray, but only a quarter actually eat even a single bite.”
— Jess Sency (@Jess_Sency) November 21, 2014
“We have been thinking that if young children choose healthy food, they will eat it,” said Susan Gross, a research associate at Johns Hopkins. “But our research shows that is not necessarily so.”
— Maya Wuertz (@wuertznightmare) November 17, 2014
“We can’t force students to eat something they don’t want,” Lyman Graham, food service director for consolidated schools near Roswell, N.M., told The Washington Post.
— Hunter Whitney (@huntwhitney4) November 13, 2014