By Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson
30th Congressional District of Texas in the US House of Representatives
One of the monumental achievements of Michelle Obama’s outstanding tenure as the nation’s First Lady was improving the quality of food that children in public schools consumed during the school day. For many of these children, the food consumed while learning was the only hint of nutrition that they experienced.
Mrs. Obama, who attended public schools while growing up in Chicago, planted a vegetable garden on the White House lawn. She believed that quality nutrition was crucial to a student’s personal growth and ability to learn. Because of her efforts to improve education, the dietary choices for public school children included a multitude of vegetables and foods consisting of whole grains.
The improved diets resulted in millions of children, many from poor families, becoming personally healthier and better students, according to educators and nutritionists who witnessed the improvement, including a significant decline in obesity. Now that which Mrs. Obama introduced and visionary educators implemented is under attack, and the gains made by our public school children are in danger of being damaged beyond repair by the current administration that has decided to reverse the elevated food standards that came into being while the Obamas were leaders of our nation and occupants of the White House.
Unwisely, the Department of Agriculture has yielded to food suppliers that have little concern for the personal health or learning abilities of our nation’s public school children. They were so brazen that they enacted the new policy on Mrs. Obama’s birthday. It will not be long before nutritious snacks are replaced by items such as hamburgers and mashed potatoes which will only fatten the approximately 30 million children who receive meals during the school day.
The Department of Agriculture, yielding to demands from beef and other meat producers, is eliminating a policy that directed school officials to provide students with fruit for breakfast. Under the new policy, schools are being encouraged to eliminate fruit and to replace it with meat and meat-alternatives. Those who back the new guidelines suggest that vegetables and fruits are wasteful foods and that school children are more attracted to meats.
This is far from the truth. Even Ray Charles could see that the new policy is being driven by money and not morality. I suspect that those who pushed back on the fruit and vegetable programs as promulgated by Mrs. Obama, trained nutritionists, and behavioral scientists, do not have children in public schools.
And if they do have children they attend private schools where the food menus are more than likely inundated with fruits and vegetables. They would not allow their children to be bombarded with meats and meat alternatives. Perhaps they are in favor of cheapening the lives of our children. They know full well what the outcome will be. They simply do not care. It is not their problem, it is someone else’s. Their misguided foolishness shall not stand!