Sonny Perdue, the new Secretary of Agriculture, is rolling back school lunch guidelines put in place by the Obama administration. The program was championed by First Lady Michelle Obama, so it’s not surprising that she’s is not very happy about the change. In a speech Friday, Mrs. Obama got worked up over the issue saying, “We gotta make sure we don’t let anybody take us back.”
“And this is where you really have to look at motives,” Mrs. Obama said. She continued, “You have to stop and think, why don’t you want our kids to have good food at school? What is wrong with you?” Later in her statement, Mrs. Obama said, “Like me, don’t like me but think about why someone is okay with your kids eating crap. Why would you celebrate that?”
Mrs. Obama suggested that issues like school lunches should be above politics and yet she’s asking her audience to question the motives of the people who are making these changes, i.e. the Trump administration. It seems she can’t imagine that anyone would come to a different conclusion from the one she reached unless they hate children.
But as Jazz reported a couple weeks ago, the School Nutrition Association has been lobbying for changes to the guidelines for several years, in part because of a survey it carried out in 2014 which found an 81% increase in “plate waste” since the new rules were implemented. In other words, a lot of the food wasn’t popular with the kids and was ending up in the trash. Secretary Perdue mentioned this when he announced the changes.
Secretary Perdue mentioned this when he announced the changes saying, “If kids aren’t eating the food, and it’s ending up in the trash, they aren’t getting any nutrition – thus undermining the intent of the program.” And palatability was clearly an issue for some kids. In 2012 and again in 2014, a #ThanksMichelleObama hashtag was used by students tweeting pictures of their less-than-appetizing school lunches. Part of this may have been the rule that 100% whole grains be used in meals and part of it the rule requiring substantially less salt in foods.
In addition to taste, the new school lunches were more expensive. And a combination of expense and flavor is believed to be behind a decrease in student participation, with one million fewer students buying a school lunch each day. The new rules will allow more flexibility with regard to sodium and whole grains.
Ultimately, there has to be a balance between allowing kids to eat what tastes good to them and what will keep them healthy. It should be possible for adults to disagree about where that middle-ground is without assuming anyone who has a different opinion has bad motives and wants to see kids “eating crap.” “I’ve got 14 grandchildren, and there is no way that I would propose something if I didn’t think it was good, healthful, and the right thing to do,” Perdue said when he announced the changes.