Michelle Obama op-ed: Put kids first

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First lady Michelle Obama admonished lawmakers for threatening to roll back new school lunch nutritional requirements, arguing in a New York Times op-ed that loosening restrictions designed to make meals healthier “doesn’t make much sense.” 

The first lady compared lawmakers who wanted to remove requirements to serve fruits and vegetables, and permit meals with higher-than-recommended sodium levels, to members who voted to declare pizza sauce a vegetable in 2011.

“You don’t have to be a nutritionist to know that this doesn’t make much sense,” Obama wrote in the op-ed published Wednesday evening, a day before the House Appropriations Committee is set to take up the annual Agriculture appropriations bill. “Yet we’re seeing the same thing happening again with these new efforts to lower nutrition standards in our schools. Our children deserve so much better than this.”

The first lady goes on to encourage parents to “put our children’s interests first.”

“We wake up every morning and go to bed every night worrying about their well-being and their futures,” Obama said. “And when we make decisions about our kids’ health, we rely on doctors and experts who can give us accurate information based on sound science. Our leaders in Washington should do the same.”

The Republican nutrition bill would allow schools that have lost money on their nutrition programs over six months to opt out of new requirements that began going into effect in 2012, imposing tougher sodium and whole-grain rules. GOP lawmakers say the wavier is temporary to allow schools more time to adjust.

Obama's push is the latest in what has amounted to a rare full-court press for the first lady. On Tuesday, Obama told a group of school nutritionists at the White House that the GOP-led effort to allow schools to opt out of nutrition standards was “unacceptable.” 

“The last thing we can afford to do right now is play politics with our kids’ health,” she said. “Now is not the time to roll back everything we have worked for.”

Earlier this month, Obama and White House chef Sam Kass held a call with advocacy groups about the nutrition standards.

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