"Don't play with our kids."
Michelle Obama's statement - in response to US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue's declaration he will roll back or delay key elements of the healthy school meal standards - pretty much sums it up.
Healthy food for kids isn't a game. It isn’t a partisan or a political issue. It's the right thing to do.
It just doesn't add up. The healthy school meal standards have been successful, any way you slice it. Here are the facts on how very well it’s working:
- Over 99% of schools are already meeting the healthy standards
- Kids like healthier school lunches, and are eating more of them! This includes more fruits and vegetables.
- The majority of kids like the healthier meals.
- The majority of parents support healthy school meals and snacks, including a reduction in salt.
- Kids are throwing out less food than before the meal standards went into effect
- Schools have maintained or increased revenues from food sales
Yet USDA Secretary Perdue has proposed rolling back or delaying important standards around sodium and whole grains. Again, in spite of the fact that almost all schools are already succeeding in meeting those targets.
Healthy school meals are working. And given the fact that 1:3 kids in the US is at risk for nutrition-related diseases, and more than 30 million children eat school meals every day, they're an important way to build healthy communities.
So why is USDA Secretary Perdue so eager to roll them back? Does he just not like kids?
I'm no math wizard, but 2+2 does not equal an elephant. It's pretty simple, really. Science and - let's be real - common sense, confirm that healthy food matters. Kids spend the majority of waking hours in school. Healthy foods help children stay alert and perform better in school. The healthy meal standards are working, kids are eating better, and we're seeing progress. So why roll back the standards now?
Perhaps USDA Secretary thinks parents aren't watching. Or that we don't care. Or that we also think the health of our kids doesn't matter. Or maybe he's playing politics with our kids' health.
The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 ushered in a wave of positive changes for our kids, including the first healthy updates to school meals and snacks in over 30 years.
Hundreds of thousands of us spoke out in support of the new meal and snack standards. Our voices and support played a big role in getting the new standards in place, and in making them a success.
We must continue to celebrate and defend this progress. Because prioritizing politics over our kids' health doesn't add up, and parents won't stand for it.