Michelle Obama is Building a Healthier Generation One School Lunch Box at a Time

  • While her husband works to make healthcare more affordable and accessible, Michelle Obama is working the same problem from a different end. The First Lady is working with the children because they represent the future. If the current trends of childhood obesity continue, then America is in for a really big healthcare bill in the future. This trend needs to be reversed and the Obama’s know it.

    Under the current administration many programs have been launched to help build a healthier generation. Building anything takes one step at a time which is why the Health and Human Services Department developed a Small Steps program. The Department of Agriculture followed suit by initiating a MyPlate program that modernized the out-dated food pyramid. And lately Ms. Obama’s Let’s Move program1 is taking center stage like it did on the Dr. Oz show2 recently. One key component of this program is to challenge the schools to improve the lunches. The National School Lunch Program3 has been totally revamped4 as a result of many visionaries like Michelle Obama realizing that America needs to feed healthier food to its children.

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    These changes have met a surprising amount of resistance. The critics have called these sweeping changes a move towards a “nanny state” that infringes upon the rights of individuals. The kids have been resistant to the removal of pizza, corn dogs, and sugary drinks from the menu. And resistance has even come from unexpected places like the school districts and lunch preparers. It seems that nobody likes change. 

    Enter the saga of the Los Angeles Unified School District; a British chef, Jamie Oliver, took it upon himself to help the schools improve the quality of the food they served. He even got the school district to ban flavored milk5 because of its sugary content. But ultimately, the children started ejecting his food6. Lunches were skipped or thrown away, junk food was “smuggled” into the schools, and the LA Times reported the initial experiment as a lunch time disaster7. Everyone has had to take a step back and rework the menus with a little more eye on the tastes of the local children. So far they have been able to stay the course as the world watches. 

    The world has also been watching the Berkeley Unified School District8. Under the guidance of local celebrity chefs, restaurateurs, parents and educators, they have been trying innovative ways to bring healthier meals to the children. By believing in making things from scratch and buying directly from local food producers, they have set an example that seems to be working for them. Staying within a reasonable budget has been challenging; thus, they have done things like buying milk in bulk instead of in cartons. But because this model has relied heavily on a private charity, it may not be a good model for the real world. 

    The real world faces many challenges to build a healthier generation. The lunch programs have had to strike a balance between health and taste. Even the best minds in the business of food preparation have discovered that without parental support, school support and the support from children, these new changes are very difficult to swallow. And as a nation we must swallow change because changing the school lunch program is a good anchor point for health. However, more needs to be done not only in the schools, but also at home within the family units. The First Family is trying to be the role model for all to follow thanks to Michelle Obama, the “First Mom”.  She is helping to build a healthier generation starting with her own children and by encouraging others, one lunch box at a time.

    1. Official Let’s Move website: http://www.letsmove.gov
    2. From Dr. Oz website: http://www.doctoroz.com/blog/mehmet-oz-md/following-first-lady-michelle-obama-lead; Sept. 11, 2012.
    3. United States Department of Agriculture; Food and Nutrition Program: http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/lunch
    4. USDA Press Release; Jan. 25, 2012: http://www.fns.usda.gov/cga/pressreleases/2012/0023.htm
    5. From Jamie Oliver website: http://www.jamieoliver.com/us/foundation/jamies-food-revolution/news-content/lausd-votes-flavored-milk-out-of-schools
    6. CBS local news; Los Angeles; Jan. 19, 2012; http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2012/01/19/lausd-students-roundly-reject-healthier-school-lunch-menu
    7. Los Angeles Times; Dec. 17, 2011; http://articles.latimes.com/2011/dec/17/local/la-me-food-lausd-20111218
    8. San Francisco Chronicle; March 30, 2009; http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Berkeley-school-lunch-program-to-be-on-its-own-3246686.php#page-1
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Published On: September 21, 2012