Mrs. Obama is ProChoice, Except for Schools, Lunches — UPDATED

First Lady Michelle Obama talks to Head Start students during lunch as she visits New Hampshire Estates Elementary School on May 19, 2010 in Silver Spring, Maryland. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Look, I am not a big detractor of Michelle Obama. I mostly like her fashion choices, and I think her mission to encourage garden growing and healthy food choices is, on its face, an excellent focus for a First Lady, and something I can really get behind.

And yet, for a woman who possesses (as she often notes) degrees from Princeton and Harvard Law, Mrs. Obama’s arguments for her cause are clumsily executed, specious, and (one hopes) unintentionally insulting. Her school lunch program needs an overhaul because first efforts have proven to be wasteful, unappealing, and insufficiently filling, especially for student-athletes.

It’s a fixable problem. Mrs. Obama’s latest defense of her plan, however, fails on so many levels, it’s mind-boggling. And the headlines aren’t helping her.

First Lady: Students Shouldn’t Pick What They Have for Lunch:

Why not? The notion of personal autonomy and the “freedom to choose” is one that this administration has become almost schizophrenic about. “Choice” is good, except when non-elite parents want to choose their child’s school, and now “my body, my choice” is a suitable sentiment for sex-ed classes, but not for the lunchroom?

“Our job as adults to make sure that our kids eat what they need, not what they want,” she said.

Actually, the job of the adults is to teach children how to make good choices by offering them options that are both healthy and appealing. That does not currently appear to be what is happening.

Back to the article:

Obama said parents and school leaders can’t let children make the call to eat pizza and burgers for lunch every day.

Can we stop for a second and ask, What, actually, is wrong with pizza or burgers if they are well-made? A slice of pizza (absent toppings, which are unnecessary) is essentially bread-and-cheese with a little sauce. People have made sustaining meals of bread-and-cheese for thousands of years. Add a side of cucumber salad, and a zucchini “brownie” for dessert, and the kids will eat all of it.

Ditto hamburgers. It’s meat and bread. People eat meat and bread. If beef offends, offer a turkey-cheeseburger alternative on a multigrain roll, with a hard boiled egg on the side, a small portion of sweet potato fries and a low-carb cannoli bite (it’s ricotta cheese!) and you have a filling, high protein, high fiber lunch no kid will turn down.

Seriously, this isn’t rocket science. Just give them appetizing choices!

“What we need to do is lend a hand to the schools that are struggling, not roll back the standards and say, ‘Oh, well. The kids don’t like it so let them eat cake.’

It is disappointing to note that, like her husband, Mrs. Obama will default to spectacularly stupid strawmen arguments — these are lawyers, remember. I’m pretty sure no one has actually made a case for lunchtime cake over a turkey sandwich on a multi-grain roll with lettuce, tomato and even a dab of mayo. The problem appears to be that Mrs. Obama’s lunch programs don’t offer such sandwiches. They seem to offer stuff like this.

Another unhelpful headline: Michelle Obama: I Couldn’t Feed My Kids Right, Even With a Harvard Degree.

Ouch, okay, it’s Breitbart, so they’ll go out of their way to make her sound stupid, but she opened the door by once again bringing up her Ivy Credentials which, we are trained to believe, give witness to the wisdom of the gentry.

“I thought to myself, if a Princeton and Harvard-educated professional woman doesn’t know how to adequately feed her kids, then what are other parents going through who don’t have access to the information I have?” she recalled.

If the Credentialed Wonders of the age cannot figure out how to prepare a nutritious lunch for their children, by accessing information available everywhere, so much less may the peasantry succeed!

“Before coming to the White House, I struggled, as a working parent with a traveling, busy husband, to figure out how to feed my kids healthy, and I didn’t get it right,”

She didn’t get the English right, either. One hopes to feed the children healthily; one works to feed the kids healthful foods. Lawyers are trained to use language well in order to bolster their argument.

The First Lady recommended that schools make decisions for children because their parents struggle to feed their children well.

Again, the schizophrenia regarding “choice-making”, and a general disrespect for the intelligence and common sense of the American public, but that appears to be endemic to this administration.

“It’s so important for our schools to make the hard calls for our kids, because parents are struggling enough at home,” she said, pointing out that schools would simply feed children sweet cereal, chocolate milk, donuts, burgers, and fries.

We are to believe that if the Ivy-educated are confused, everyone else must be, so a Central Authority — like the one that gave us the Food Pyramid that rendered us fat and diabetic thanks to all the carbs — must be installed.

Also, what an insult Mrs. Obama just handed to the countless credentialed men and women who possess advanced degrees in nutrition and strive to serve their school districts by offering balanced school lunches, often on flimsy budgets. Apparently they are not too credentialed to be turned into straw.

Obama added that parents and school administrators needed to stop worrying about what their kids want to eat and encourage them to act like adults.

But they are children!
And our children are already growing up much too fast, Ma’am. Shall we allow them the passing joy of a butterscotch pudding with their meatloaf before we must corral them into endless, unsustaining spinach salads? Must we be this grimly rigid, this early?

I’d like to learn more about
this successful program in Wisconsin, circa 1997

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About Elizabeth Scalia