Michelle Obama Speaks Out About School Lunches

Hint: She was not exactly happy about them.

Michelle Obama speaks onstage during the 'Black Girls Rock!' BET Special at NJ Performing Arts Center on March 28, 2015 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/FilmMagic)
2015 Gilbert Carrasquillo. Photo: Gilbert Carrasquillo

In Spring 2019, the Trump administration announced changes — led by agriculture secretary Sonny Purdue — to the standards of lunches served in United States' schools. Many of those changes rolled back policies championed by Michelle Obama, and the former First Lady, quite understandably, wasn't exactly happy to hear about them.

Speaking at Partnership for a Healthier America conference in April 2019, Obama told the crowd that the changes — which allow white bread, chocolate milk, and higher sodium content back into school meals, among other things — hurt kids.

"Moms, think about this," Obama said. "Take me out of the equation; like me, don't like me, but think about why someone is OK with your kids eating crap. Because here's the secret: If somebody is doing that, they don't care about your kid. And we need to demand everyone to care deeply about our kids."

Obama launched Let's Move! when she was in the White House, a program that tried to tackle obesity, with a focus on childhood obesity. With the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, Let's Move! instituted changes to school lunches that included offering kids more whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables. "We gotta make sure we don't let anybody take us back," Obama said to raucous crowd cheers. "Every elected official on this planet should understand: Don't play with our children. Don't do it."

For his part, Purdue has said the rollbacks and changes are what kids actually want.

"This ... is the result of years of feedback from students, schools, and food service experts about the challenges they are facing in meeting the final regulations for school meals," Purdue said on May 1, 2019. "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."

But Obama and others weren't buying it. "My commitment to these issues is real," she promised. "I picked this issue because there was deep passion for it as a mother. I'm going to continue working on this."

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