At the end of May I was surprised to see an article written by Michelle Obama, the First Lady, with the title “The Campaign for Junk Food” on the editorial page of New York Times.
The First Lady has been working hard on several programs to save children from obesity. As a result, the Child Nutrition Act was enacted in December 2010, and the national standards for school lunch programs were updated. However, within one year of the changes to school lunches based on the new standards, the Republican Party submitted a bill that would take the teeth out of the new nutrition standards. The First Lady pushed back. Since she is usually careful to maintain some distance from political games, writing this editorial shows that she takes this counterattack very seriously.
Although this bill may be able to pass in the House of Representatives, it will probably be voted down in the Senate where Democrats hold a majority. Nevertheless, I am shocked to see how easily an attack on something as proper and scientifically sound as replacing junk food with fresh fruits and vegetables in school lunches to save children from obesity can progress so far.
Protests against the new nutrition standards were raised last fall by the children who eat the meals, as well as the nutritionists who provide them. The children who saw their favorite menus disappear and replaced with fruits and vegetable complained that the new meals didn't taste good, and just threw the food away without eating it. Others complained that reduced calorie menus didn't provide enough food. The nutritionists claimed that vegetables and fruits were too expensive, making it more difficult to design menus within the budget compared with junk food.
This kind of resistance was anticipated by the Federal Government and the anti-obesity campaign groups. They were already working on developing ways to get children to eat vegetables and fruits willingly, and devising healthy, cost-effective menus to promote this movement; and their efforts were getting results. Therefore, it is difficult to believe that the complaints from the schools are a significant reason that the bill has a chance to pass in the House.