Michelle Obama, Republicans Clash Over School Menu Issues

Four years after convincing Congress to pass her child nutrition law, First Lady Michelle Obama is taking the offensive in staving off a Republican bill in Congress that would allow schools to opt out of the healthier foods standards.

On May 27, Obama hosted a round table at the White House with school administrators and nutrition gurus to highlight the positives of the plan.

Sam Kass, the director of Obama’s Let’s Move campaign, said Obama hosted a White House event to prove that the healthier school menus are having a positive effect on childhood obesity, according to an article written by Mary Clare Jalonick of The Associated Press.

“She wants to have a conversation about what is really happening out in the country,” as opposed to Washington, Kass said. “These standards are working.”

Schools have struggled to maintain the healthier food standards for a variety of reasons, including cost and waste, according to an article written by Daniel Doherty of TownHall.

A GOP spending bill for agriculture and food programs released Monday would allow schools to apply for waivers if they have a net loss on school food programs for six months in a row.

The bill was written by Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL), who said he has taken the advice of school food administrators who have complained of the difficulty in meeting standards for sodium and whole grains, and who are being forced to throw away bulk amounts of fruits and vegetables that go uneaten by students.

The USDA, which administers Obama’s plan, has made small adjustments to it over the past four years, removing limits on the number of grains and proteins that children could eat after complaints of hunger were heard.

Also lobbying for the bill’s passage is The School Nutrition Association (SNA), which represents those companies that sell food to schools. SNA says the standards are too restrictive.

“Our request for flexibility under the new standards does not come from industry or politics, it comes from thousands of school cafeteria professionals who have shown how these overly prescriptive regulations are hindering their effort to get students to eat healthy school meals,” said SNA’s Leah Schmidt.

Meanwhile, the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) is lobbying to keep the standards attack, saying that the rocky road is worth it to get to the end result of healthier children.

The national PTA is pushing lawmakers to keep the standards intact.

“At a time when families are working hard to live healthy lives, school meals should be supporting families’ efforts, not working against them,” PTA President Otha Thornton wrote to members of Congress.

According to data released by the USDA, since the program’s implementation in 2010, more than 1 million students have stopped buying school lunches across the country.