EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


May 31, 2014

Column: Time is running out for White House 'mice'

“OMG!,” said the White House mice recently. “Our time is running out!”

(”Mice” is among the nicest terms used to refer to the aides who scurry around to think up ways the president and first lady might promote their agendas. Think HBO’s VEEP without the laugh track.)

The mice calculated that with only two and a half more years in office, President Obama and Michelle Obama should get cracking on restarting their to-do lists.

Thus, Michelle Obama came out swinging at congressional Republicans for daring to try to block her efforts to promote more healthful food in school lunches. You know, broccoli and granola bars and salads instead of fried chicken, sodas and brownies. “The last thing we can afford to do right now is play politics with our kids’ health,” she warned.

Now, this is a huge debate, every bit as heated as the Reagan administration’s attempt to have ketchup count as a vegetable in school lunches.

Michelle’s supporters argue that the nation has too many obese children who will grow up to be unhealthy, unproductive, costly adults, and that training children to eat good, nourishing food instead of junk will pay off in the future.

Her opponents claim she has messed up the school lunch program by making it more costly (fresh costs more than processed) and by causing a million fewer children to eat sugarless, soda-less, fried-less lunch at school. They say too much food is being wasted because children are throwing away their vegetables.

Instead of wisely keeping their heads down on this one and suggesting schools buy more ketchup (children eat anything with ketchup on it), Republicans in Congress, ever eager to get in a fight with an Obama, are backing the misnamed School Nutrition Association. The SNA is lobbying to scale back the more-fruits-and-vegetables, fewer-calories regulations still being phased in and the law signed by the president in 2010. The SNA lobby wants the regulations to be more flexible and permit waivers to schools struggling to buy more healthful food.

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