WASHINGTON, D.C. – Michelle Obama is resorting to conspiracy theories to explain why her new school lunch rules are bombing out with children and their parents.
On Friday, the first lady implied the food industry is orchestrating the pushback against the federal government’s healthy school lunch regulations because it’s trying to preserve control over the lucrative K-12 lunch market.
“There’s a lot of money involved in feeding our kids at school,” Mrs. Obama said during the third annual “Kids’ State Dinner,” according to POLITICO. “We are currently spending $10 billion a year on our school lunch program…so it’s not surprising that certain interests are resisting change and trying to take us back to the old way of doing business, because for them there’s a lot of money on the line.”
Mrs. Obama’s remarks overlook the simple truth: The reason the food industry has turned on her lunch regulations is because kids – the industry’s customers – are refusing to eat the new sodium- and calorie-reduced (some would say taste-reduced) offerings.
If America’s school kids were happily lining up for black bean burgers, whole wheat spaghetti, cantaloupe wedges and green pepper strips, it’s highly unlikely that food industry leaders would risk the wrath of the federal government by speaking out against the lunch regulations being backed by Mrs. Obama.
But the fact is that more than 1 million students have stopped purchasing school lunches since the federal regulations took effect in 2012, according to the School Nutrition Association (SNA).
The SNA adds that schools throw away nearly $4 million a day on fruit and vegetables that the kids refuse to eat, reports the Associated Press. As a result, the healthy lunch makeover is costing some school districts big bucks.
“Some of the regulations coming from Washington are having a deleterious effect on school cafeteria budgets from New Mexico to New Hampshire, as students with differing cultures and differing taste preferences are choosing to spend their lunch money elsewhere,” SNA President Patricia Montague said in a prepared statement on Friday.
That’s why SNA leaders say they’re in favor of Congressional Republicans’ effort to allow schools that are “struggling financially under the new rules, which require less sodium and more whole grain-rich breads and pastas, to opt out of the requirements in the next school year,” POLITICO reports.
Mrs. Obama doesn’t want the opt-out year because it could cause her entire program to unravel. As POLITICO notes, the feds’ lunch regulations “will need to be reauthorized next year.” That might not happen if the GOP wins control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate in November, as is widely expected.
So if Congress waives some rules of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act this year and scraps them entirely next year, Mrs. Obama’s legacy of fundamentally transforming how America’s school kids eat will be in ashes.
Perhaps that’s why the first lady seems eager to vilify the food industry. If Mrs. Obama can cast the school lunch controversy as a “David versus Goliath” story – with the feds in the role the shepherd boy and Big Food playing the part of the menacing giant– then maybe the media will stop reporting on how cafeteria garbage cans are overflowing with government-mandated lunches.