First Lady's obesity initiative timed to have maximum impact on Child Nutrition reauthorization.
A major initiative from First Lady Michelle Obama one that addresses childhood obesity, couldn't have come at a better time for advocates of increased funding for, and tighter regulation of, school meals.
Mrs. Obama's “Let's Move” campaign, announced with maximum press attention in early February seeks to eliminate childhood obesity within a generation. Among its goals are more healthful food in schools, more accurate food labeling, better grocery stores in communities that don't have them and efforts to get children to be more physically active.
The announcement timing certainly was favorable for the School Nutrition Association (SNA), which has been working hard to lobby Congress to increase funding for school nutrition programs to make more healthful meal options available in school-based meals. SNA had already won one important victory when the Administration's budget proposal to Congress included many of its requests, especially a significant funding increase.
To emphasize that the two campaigns are working hand in hand, Mrs. Obama addressed SNA's Legislative Action Conference (LAC) in Washington in early March, expressing strong support both for school nutrition professionals and for SNA's goals.
“A lot of folks still don't understand how the cafeteria is actually one of the most important classrooms in the entire school, because what you all know is that our kids don't stop learning at lunchtime,” she said. “Every day, with the food you serve, you're teaching them these critical lessons about nutrition and healthy eating. You're shaping their habits and their preferences, and you're affecting the choices that they're going to make for the rest of their lives.”
Mrs. Obama emphasized the proposals her husband's administration included in its budget request to Congress, including a “new investment of an additional $10 billion over the next 10 years,” as well as a reduction in the paperwork requirement to qualify students for subsidized meals and more money for equipment like ovens and salad bars that would allow the preparation and menuing of healthier meals.
“And in the end, that's what this is all about — ensuring that we build well for the future,” she said. “Ensuring that our kids are ready to learn, that they're ready to serve their country, that they're ready to make healthy decisions for the rest of their lives.”
In his address to the LAC, USDA Secretary Thomas Vilsack seconded many of Mrs. Obama's points. He also urged parents, schools and elected officials to improve the nutrition and physical activity habits of children by working to double the number of “HealthierUS” schools across the country. The HealthierUS Schools Challenge recognizes schools that do an exceptional job promoting meal participation and quality, nutrition education and physical activity.
“USDA is committed to promoting nutrition standards and providing our children well-balanced, healthy meals during their school day,” Vilsack said.