In May, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue rolled back some of the Obama administration's requirements for school lunches, announcing that public schools will no longer be obligated to meet certain minimum nutritional standards if they receive wavers from the states in which they're located. On Friday, former First Lady Michelle Obama ripped into the Trump administration over the decision, and questioned why setting basic standards for children's meals has become a political issue at all.
"You have to stop and think, 'Why don't you want our kids to have good food at school? What is wrong with you? And why is that a partisan issue," said a visibly irritated Obama, who championed good health standards during her time as first lady, at the Partnership for a Healthier America summit. "Why would that be political?"
Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue signed a proclamation that scales back Obama-era standards in three key nutritional categories: Whole grains, sodium, and milk. If they receive a waver from their states, schools will no longer have to meet the 100 percent whole-grain-rich standard — the minimum amount of whole grains required in schools will instead be 50 percent. In addition, school meals can now serve one percent milk, instead of fat free milk, and the maximum amount of sodium allowed in school lunches has been raised as well.
“Moms, think about this," Obama said at the summit. "I don’t care what state you live in, take me out of the equation, like me, don’t like me, but think about why someone is OK with your kids eating crap."
Combatting childhood obesity was one of Obama's top priorities during her husband's administration, which instituted the standards for school lunches in 2012. Some of those standards remain: School will still be required to give students fruits and vegetables for instance. But Perdue criticized that rule as well, arguing that many students don't like fruits and vegetables, and simply throw them away.
Obama defended that rule as well, explaining that children aren't necessarily equipped to make the best decisions about their own health and wellbeing.
"How about we stop asking kids how they feel about their food, because kids — my kids included — if they could eat pizza and french fries every day with ice cream on top and a soda they would think they were happy, until they get sick,” she said. “That, to me is one of the most ridiculous things we talk about in this movement...Kids don’t like math either. What are we going to do? Stop teaching math?”
At the summit, Obama also addressed her and her husband's relative silence since Trump took office, and assured the audience that they're not going anywhere anytime soon.
"We’re not gone," she said. "We’re just breathing,”