Michelle Obama: USDA working on 'delicious' school lunches

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"I believe that that legislation is truly one of the greatest legacies that we can leave our children. Because of this act ... 32 million American children are getting more of the nutrition they need to learn and grow and be successful," Obama told workers at the USDA.

"And I do hope that it's delicious," she added, to laughter. "We're working on that, yes indeed."

Last autumn, conservative critics of the new standards — which cap meal calories at 650 for students in kindergarten through fifth grade, at 700 calories for middle school students and 850 calories for high school students — charged that the restrictions made meals unappetizing to children.

Reps. Steve King (R-Iowa) and Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) introduced legislation to repeal the standards, saying they were motivated by constituent complaints about new menus.

"The goal of the school lunch program is supposed to be feeding children, not filling the trash cans with uneaten food," Huelskamp said in a statement. "The USDA's new school lunch guidelines are a perfect example of what is wrong with government: misguided inputs, tremendous waste, and unaccomplished goals. Thanks to the Nutrition Nannies at the USDA, America's children are going hungry at school."

At the USDA, the first lady said the law helped children better understand where their food came from and that healthier alternatives were available.

"The bottom line is that with the work that you do at USDA — work that affects the vitality of our communities, the food we feed our children, the air, the land, the water we’re passing on to our children — you all touch just about every single American in this country with the work that you do," Obama said.

The first lady's visit Friday was the latest in a series of visits to federal agencies to thank workers who are facing furloughs and budget cuts in the aftermath of the sequester, $85 billion in across-the-board cuts implemented earlier this year. Late last month, the first lady visited the Department of the Interior.

On Friday, Obama told USDA employees that she hoped they "retain that passion" in the face of tough work conditions.

"I’m here today because I want to tell you how much Barack and I really, truly appreciate what you do. We know that you are sacrificing as much as us. And oftentimes, we get the attention," Obama said. "We get the limelight. But the truth is we couldn’t do what we do without you sacrificing, you and your families."