Lunch 101: What Obama girls are eating these days

We want to know everything else about Sasha and Malia these days — if they’re happy, what kind of hypo-allergenic dog they’ll get, what clothing from J. Crew they’ll wear.

But what are the girls eating?

Last week the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) presented its case for reforming the Child Nutrition Act. The presentation in the Cannon House Office Building included a comparison of eating options provided to students at Sidwell Friends, the D.C. private school the children of President Obama attend, and those at Washington public schools.

On Feb. 13, Sidwell Friends served multigrain pizza, with a non-dairy pizza as a secondary option. In the D.C. public schools, students could eat a bologna-and-cheese sandwich, with no non-meat, non-dairy second option.

“If we are ever going to get a handle on the child obesity crisis … it starts with healthy food,” said Neal Barnard, the group’s president.

Barnard told The Hill he bought lunch — cheese pizza and hamburgers, “fairly typical cafeteria food” — while a junior high school student in Fargo, N.D. He noted it is particularly challenging for public schools to get their foods under the nutrient guidelines provided by the Agriculture Department.

“Not every child will go vegetarian overnight, but they should have at least the chance, if they want a vegetarian meal or a vegan meal, to choose it,” he said. “Every school in America would serve veggie burgers if they could do it, but many of them can’t afford it.”

Staffers from about 25 members’ offices, along with some people representing interest groups such as the American Bar Association, were on hand for the talk.

The briefing drew them with — what else? — free food. The fare included finger-size chickenless and eggless salad sandwiches, along with chips and hummus, a vegetable platter and fruit kabobs with cinnamon and peach soy yogurt. All the food was a sampling of what PCRM believes should be a choice for children’s lunch menus. Chatter about the free vegan food echoed around the halls of the Cannon building following the presentation.

The presentation came the same day the White House announced increased funding for child nutrition by about $1 billion a year for the next decade, totaling an additional $9.85 billion by fiscal 2019. Child nutrition programs cost about $15 billion a year and are up for renewal in Congress this year.

“We are really excited about the White House’s dedication to child nutrition,” said Kathryn Strong, a staff nutritionist at PCRM specializing in child nutrition. “We’re hopeful it will turn into improvements. I’m really pleased this is a focus for the administration.”