Today, First Lady Michelle Obama joined a roundtable discussion with school leaders and experts on issues surrounding school nutrition. The First Lady heard from participants about the work they are doing to improve school nutrition in their local districts.
From districts large and small, we heard success stories, strategies, and tactics from across the country, including representatives from districts in Los Angeles and New York City and places like Burke County, Georgia, Norfolk, Virginia, and right here in Montgomery County, Maryland. These districts and many others across the country are leading the way and finding innovative ways to successfully implement the school nutrition standards. From engaging kids in the process and doing taste tests of new fruits and vegetables, to incorporating more local food into the school meals to cut down on costs and support the local economy, school districts are helping to ensure kids get the nutrition they need while also maintaining profits, which we know is critical for districts across the country.
Donna Martin, Director of the School Nutrition Program in Burke County, Georgia, shared an incredible story from her district showing the success of their nutrition program. The high school football team in Burke County won the state championship for the first time a few years ago, and the coach attributed the team’s success to the school’s nutrition program and ability to serve supper to many of the students, thanks to the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act.
David Binkle, Director of Food Services for Los Angeles Unified School District, shared that his district has been able to successfully implement and even go beyond the nutrition standards for the 650,000 students they serve. As a result, they have seen increased participation in the program, improvements in students’ academics, and even increased graduation rates.
First Lady Michelle Obama participates in a "Let's Move!" roundtable discussion with school leaders and experts on issues surrounding school nutrition, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building of the White House, May 27, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)
There are so many other great stories like these in districts across the country, but what’s unfortunate is that right now, efforts are underway to roll back the nutrition standards.
“The last thing that we can afford to do right now is play politics with our kids' health," Mrs. Obama said. "Now is not the time to roll back everything that we have worked for.”
The truth is, the standards are working. Over 90 percent of schools report that they are successfully meeting the updated nutrition standards. In addition, we are seeing an increase in fruit and vegetable consumption and an increase in revenue for schools. And the U.S. Department of Agriculture has been helping support schools throughout the process of implementing the standards by providing guidance and flexibility as needed to ensure success for all schools.
After all, schools should be places that we can count on as healthy environments for our kids. That’s why we are doing everything we can to ensure that the hard works parents are doing at home to keep their kids healthy is not undermined when their kids head off to school.
The First Lady acknowledged that it hasn’t been easy making changes in the school lunchrooms and that “transforming the health of an entire generation is no small task. But we have to be willing to fight the hard fight now.” There is too much at stake to turn back now. We need to double down on our efforts to ensure our kids have access to the nutrition they need to grow up healthy and be successful in school and in life.