A new hashtag, #ThanksMichelleObama, is nationally trending on Twitter – and for the most part, the Tweets sarcastic barbs that showcase unappealing school lunches.
Teens across the country are taking to Twitter, posting photos of their school lunches as a message to the First Lady who they hold responsible for the campaign to make their meals more nutritious.
The trend is believed to have started in Wisconsin, but after some promotion from Buzzfeed, it has spread across the country.
Twitter user Hunter Whitney wrote “Had a very #healthylunch today. The apple definitely made up for the ‘mystery mush.’ #ThanksMichelleObama”
Pictures of dubiously-identified mashed potatoes, possible re-fried beans, and other questionable foods are being posted to Twitter on a daily basis.
The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act was signed into law in 2010, establishing a budget for more nutritious lunches and also creating new USDA guidelines. Those guidelines include limiting the fat, calories, sugar and sodium for all food and drink made available to students during the school day in 100,000 schools across the country.
“I blame Michelle Obama. Starving kids at school isn’t exactly a way to (get) kids’ obesity down,” said Caitlin Tagner, a high school sophomore from North Carolina, “I feel like it’s just been taken too far.”
However, it may not be the First Lady’s fault. Congress and the Department of Agriculture approved the standards, and some schools are having a difficult time adjusting to them. While Obama does feel very strongly about school lunches, it is actually the Department of Agriculture that is in charge of the actual regulations.
The National School Lunch Program provides free or reduced price lunches as well as regularly-priced school lunches with the help of federal funding. In return, schools must follow nutritional guidelines set by the Healthy and Hunger-Free Kids Act.
“I think they’re just disingenuous,” child nutrition advocate Ann Cooper said of the kids protesting their lunches. “Because what I think they would like, instead of having fruits and vegetables… they’d like to have four pieces of pizza … There’s plenty of schools that are not serving good food, but that has nothing to do with the guidelines.”
School meals are now required to include a whole grain, protein, fat-free or low-fat milk, fruit and vegetables. While students are allowed to turn down two of the five options, they must take the fruit or vegetables.
New limitations set to take effect in 2017 limit the sodium intake of students and may drop the requirement of taking a fruit or vegetable.
Cooper said that her school saw a 4% drop in sales their first year offering healthier lunches. Since that time they have seen three years of 6-7% increases.
“The idea that we’re going to change kids palettes in just a couple of months from high fat, high salt, high sugar to fresh fruits and vegetables for older kids is unreasonable.”