Watching liberals, progressives, and Dems celebrate the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act in 2010 was heartening and a little sad all at once.
Those fighting for reforms in the school lunch program had waited 36 years for a non-inflationary increase in school lunch funding. True, all they got was 6¢ per lunch, but 6¢ was more than 3+ decades of 0¢.
Sad because if the GOP got control of the House later than year in 2010 (which happened), the Republicans would fight hard to water down the tiny increases, and use soft drinks as the water.
Michelle Obama has been fighting back, which is good since she has been the target, the symbol, of trying to help kids get better food so they can learn more and better in school. Her latest salvo comes from an op-ed in The New York Times last week.
Yet some members of the House of Representatives are now threatening to roll back these new standards and lower the quality of food our kids get in school. They want to make it optional, not mandatory, for schools to serve fruits and vegetables to our kids. They also want to allow more sodium and fewer whole grains than recommended into school lunches. … Remember a few years ago when Congress declared that the sauce on a slice of pizza should count as a vegetable in school lunches? You don't have to be a nutritionist to know that this doesn't make much sense. Yet we're seeing the same thing happening again with these new efforts to lower nutrition standards in our schools.
The move by the House Appropriations Committee last week to allow more flexibility has more bark than bite. But the GOP has been successful at making small cuts to the tiny increases.
Childhood obesity levels are shrinking. Let's Move and the First Lady have played their part. And the investment over time can grow by leaps and bounds.
Mrs. Obama points out that "we spend more than $10 billion a year on school lunches and should not be spending those hard-earned taxpayer dollars on junk food for our children" and "we already spend an estimated $190 billion a year treating obesity-related conditions." A generation of school lunch program money vs. 1 year of treating obesity: that's an investment worth making.
This is about starting this movement with children but spreading the word to adults.
This is a story of two races … no, not those kind. For most Republicans and conservative Dems, feeding school children is a race to the bottom. What Mrs. Obama is fighting for isn't even a race to the top, but to average. And we are nowhere close to the average.
The government does not want to tell you and your children what to eat. If we had a $1 for every time someone said that the government does, we can make a difference in the school lunch program.
We aren't even arguing about how well to feed our kids. Those on the other side don't want to feed them, and somehow if we have to do so, to then spend as little money as humanly possible. In a land of cheap crappy food, this is so easy to accomplish.
Michelle Obama is asking us as a society to reassess this attitude. Parents should be protesting the GOP attempts to cut back on healthier eating in school lunchrooms, but they are too busy raising their kids. Those that have a stake in the status quo don't have to protest. They quietly go into Congress and lobby.
Mrs. Obama, you have a good fight still to come. Thanks for being in the ring for those who don't have time and energy to fight.