Ted Cruz Talks Undoing Changes Michelle Obama Made to School Lunches
As Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas closed out his successful run in the Iowa caucuses and turned his attention to the February 9 New Hampshire primary, he will be looking to broaden his base of supporters hoping to attract young voters to his candidacy, but even so, his latest campaign promise might have been aimed at voters too young to vote for him.
“When Heidi’s first lady, French fries are coming back to the cafeteria!” Cruz told an enthusiastic crowd in a none-too-subtle reference to First Lady Michelle Obama’s controversial involvement in school lunch programs around the country.
Parents of hungry children who come home ready to raid the refrigerator, as well as teachers, coaches and school employees may well be swayed by Cruz's promise as they deal with the new rules for school lunches advocated by the First Lady.
Beginning in 2012, Mrs. Obama pressured the U.S. Department of Agriculture to change its standards for school meals as part of her cause to end childhood obesity in America.
First Ladies have, to a greater or lesser degree, taken on a particular cause or interest to advance and advocate for during the presidency of their husbands since Dolley Madison became a sponsor of the Washington City Orphan Asylum in 1815 inspiring a long line of first ladies, including the troubled Mary Todd Lincoln who helped raise resources for the association that aided recently freed slaves and injured soldiers during the Civil War.
While First Ladies Jacqueline Kennedy and Laura Bush drew on their educational backgrounds and training to focus on the historical restoration of the White House and children’s literacy, Michelle Obama declared herself champion of the cause of preventing childhood obesity, despite having no background, education or training in nutrition or pediatrics.
As a result, the lunch program favored and promoted by Mrs. Obama has come under public criticism and created unintended consequences and public while failing to achieve its laudable goals.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) published findings in a September report indicating that participation in First Lady Michelle Obama’s school lunch program has dropped through the 2013-2014 academic year.
Photographs of unappetizing and skimpy meals on school lunch trays, as well as complaints by students, parents, teachers and school organizations have drawn attention to the problem of a “one size fits all” approach that provides the same lunch to elementary and high school students, student athletes and even, in some cases, pregnant teenage girls all of whom have vastly different nutritional needs.
Teachers argue that hungry students are poor learners, and coaches and student athletes have voiced concerns about the lack of adequate caloric intake and nutrition to train and compete.
The 55,000-member School Nutritional Association issued a position paper in 2015 asking Congress to amend the law Mrs. Obama promoted, the “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010” to provide more food for students.
School districts have seen a significant drop in the number of students participating in the First Lady’s lunch program resulting in a hit to their budgets, and school policies forbidding students from bringing more appetizing and substantial lunches from home have drawn outcry from parents and protests from students.
The Obama rules have impacted school parties, fundraisers and functions, by prohibiting such things as bake sales and refreshments at school sponsored events.
Among the unintended consequences of the new rules has been the creation of a black market at schools as students smuggle in packets of salt and sugar to add flavor to foods deemed acceptable under Mrs. Obama’s guidelines, but inedible to the students they were intended to help.