Agriclulture Secretary Tom Vilsak announced the new school lunch program standards yesterday (as required by the 2010 Healthy and Hunger Free Kids Act). These new standards mean more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables on lunch trays. While the Obama administration says these school lunch reforms are designed to help keep kids healthy, one suspects we'll see a nationwide repeat of what we've seen in LA county schools (where these "healthy" school lunch initiatives have been in place for a year)–tons of wasted food and the development of a thriving school-based snack food black market.
Yesterday, the First Lady visited a public school in the D.C. suburbs to tout these new food standards–the top priority for her Let's Move campaign. Discussing the new rules, she said "When we send our kids to school, we expect that they won't be eating the kind of fatty, salty, sugary foods that we try to keep them from eating at home."
She's right. Responsible parents want their kids to eat healthy food and that's why parents–not the government–should control what goes in the mouths of their children. Therefore, the Obama administration shouldn't be touting an expansion of government feeding programs (or working to make them "healthy"), it should be working to discourage parents from letting their kids eat institutional food in the first place. In other words, bring back the brown bag and encourage parents to take control of their children's diets!
After all, that's exactly what the First Lady did when she was told by her family doctor that her daughters' BMIs were increasing. Did she demand healthier food in schools? Did she demand food advertisements be limited? Did she demand fast food restaurants stop serving fries? No, she made one simple step: she took a greater role in their nutrition.
And she's publicly spoken of the measures she alone took to make sure her girls were getting more exercise, watching less television (and no Kardashians!), and going to bed earlier. She also talked about adding more colorful vegetables and lower fat milk to their diets.
These may seem like common sense steps to help kids maintain a healthy weight but it's also the steps supported by research which says only parents can help prevent (and reverse) childhood obesity. This information–that parents are powerful influences on their children–is information that must be promoted. The First Lady is in the unique position to do just that–inspire a generation of parents to reclaim what is a basic parenting responsibility: feed your children.