After the emergence of a Republican spending bill that would allow schools to waive healthy lunch standards, first lady Michelle Obama will be holding an event at the White House to highlight the successes of her initiative, in a move to counter the bill.
Over the past two years, the health standards out of Obama’s "Let’s Move!" campaign have been rolled out in schools across the nation, forcing cafeterias to provide students with healthier options. While some argue that such rules are necessary in light of the childhood obesity epidemic, others lament that the regulations are too restrictive. If the Republican bill passes, however, schools would have the ability to waive the standards if they have a net loss on school food programs for six months. The writer of the bill, Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) said that he had been responding to letters from school food directors, who argue that the regulations are too expensive and limiting.
According to the director of Obama's "Let’s Move!" campaign, Sam Kass, the Republican bill that would let schools dip out of the health standards would be a “real assault” on the government’s attempt to make school lunches healthier. “She wants to have a conversation about what is really happening out in the country,” Kass said. “These standards are working.” The event is meant to highlight the successes of schools who have implemented these health standards, and will involve school nutrition officials speaking about their positive impact. The White House's schedule states that Obama “will stress the importance of students, parents, school officials, community leaders, and health advocates coming together to protect and advance the tremendous progress that has been made in schools across our country.”
The standards ensure that school lunches provide kids with more whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and low-fat dairy products. They also aim to reduce the amount of fat, sodium, and sugar present in school lunches and monitor portion sizes. Earlier this month, the Agriculture Department (USDA) said it would allow some schools to delay the whole grains requirement, seeing as several critical school nutrition officials noted they were too difficult to implement.
The GOP spending bill was released on Monday, and a House Appropriations subcommittee approved it on Tuesday. According to Aderholt, who is also chairman of the agriculture appropriations panel, the lunch standards have “upset the economics of the school meals program by driving the cost of the plate up while pushing participation down.” However, supporters of Michelle Obama’s initiative say that the government and schools are responsible to help instill healthier eating habits among America’s students. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity among children in America has more than doubled over the past 30 years.