WAMU 88.5 : The Kojo Nnamdi Show

The Politics of School Meal Standards

First Lady Michelle Obama engaged Congress this week in a debate over nationwide standards for school lunches. At issue is an attempt by lawmakers to relax nutrition guidelines for school districts that want more flexibility. We explore the issues in play and why the the first lady felt compelled to make a rare foray into a direct political debate.

The First Lady Speaks Out At School Nutrition Roundtable

At a nutrition roundtable Tuesday, First Lady Michelle Obama called Congress' efforts to relax school lunch standards "unacceptable."

"It's unacceptable to me not just as first lady, but as a mother," she said.

Watch her full remarks below.

Improving School Nutrition

Locally, the issue of school lunches has become a familiar one on the show over the years.

In 2010, Ed Bruske, co-founder of DC Urban Farmers, talked with Kojo about food politics in DC .

In 2012, we hosted Tony Geraci, a chef and Food Service Director for Baltimore City Schools, for a discussion on his work to transform school lunches - from replacing "mystery meat" to starting a farm on school land to teach kids to grow the food they ate.

Geraci, who earned the nickname "Cafeteria Man," was featured in a film by the same name.

Cafeterian Man from Kristian Bjørnard on Vimeo.

And in 2013, Chez Panisse executive chef and sustainable food activist Alice Waters discussed ways that schools can prepare healthy meals and get kids excited about eating them.

"We want to have the kids feel that they're loved. And when you bring kids around the table and they eat together and they eat something that's good, they feel like they're being taken care of," Waters said.

In the video below, Waters and Restaurant Eve chef Cathal Armstrong spoke about improving school cafeterias.

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