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?

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

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Rebecca

    When it gets right down to it, the school food choices are mostly limited by the fact that few schools have kitchens and do their own food prep. They buy pre-packaged, pre-made meals with few fresh ingredients because that’s how the school food programs work and how the reimbursements work. They can’t afford food choices like you recommend because they don’t have the infrastructure to slice cucumbers, etc. It gets much more complex once you consider the surplus food programs and how it all interacts. Without strict guidelines, many schools would default to chocolate milk and other sweet goodies because they are cheaper.

    Just because it makes us feel good to give kids treats, doesn’t mean it is right to encourage that habit. We give our daughter chocolate milk as a treat on Saturday when we get our “fancy” coffee, but the rest of the week we don’t even make it an option. School meals aren’t the time to be teaching kids that they need “fun” food at every meal.

    I do understand that your main point in the article is that the administration is overly concerned about choice in other circumstances and very anti-choice in this instance, but I guess I can’t be as concerned about school lunch standards in the anti-choice vs choice discussion. A great blog to learn about these issues is http://www.foodpolitics.com.

  • LeeAnn Balbirona

    Re: “I couldn’t feed my kids right even with a Harvard degree…” I think this is an expression of exasperation with understanding the science-based standards for school food. Michael Pollan calls this nutritionism.

    And everything Rebecca said…yes. The program is big, complex and political. I wish as a nation we could even just agree that junk food, vending machines, and fast food and their advertising don’t belong in schools, but those things are still allowed. NYTimes just had a short bit on reconfigured “healthier” (lower fat cheese, 51% whole grain crust) Domino’s Pizza in the schools. Why do we allow this crap in the name of fundraising?

  • EGF

    Cute article. The bit attacking Mrs. Obama’s grammar is a little silly, though.

  • Mack

    Mrs. Laura Bush, like Mrs. Obama, encourages us to murder our children; we note that they have not murdered their own beautiful children.

  • td10

    When we got married, my husband was still in school. By the time he graduated, we had 4 kids and had I learned to cook on a budget. The reality is healthy food is cheaper but it takes kitchen skills to transform ingredients. I always wonder why schools don’t make homemade soup and chili. I use tons of vegetables in these dishes, my kids love them, and I can go weeks without repeating recipes. If the Ole’girl had ever struggled with money, maybe she’d have figured out that crap costs more and feeding kids less of it isn’t the answer. I agree with the author on healthy pizza and burgers and I firmly believe, after raising 11 healthy, avidly athletic kids, the real culprit is too much sitting in school followed by overuse of electronics at home. Beat your nintendos to a bloody pulp, parents, and shoo your little people outside. And the ultimate reality is, it’s not big mamas job to get our kids healthy. Take back your power as parents and pack your own lunch!

  • MeanLizzie

    Perhaps, but I’m really tired of people using poor English. When people say “that’s a quality piece” I always want to say, “high or low?”

  • TapestryGarden

    Sadly we don’t know that. We know they did keep two of them. But given their absolute support for abortion, Obama’s “punished with a baby” comment, his ‘God bless Planned Parenthood’ don’t think that other babies were not aborted. Please don’t take this as suspicion or accusation, but rather to point out that we don’t know what “reproductive rights” they’ve accessed before or after the birth of their two lovely daughters.

  • Barbara Mathews

    Did you pickup on the word “everyday”? When my children were at home I didn’t let them pick out their meal choices everyday, either. However, they did get to pick out their favorites on some days. Spinning the narrative, again. Don’t complain about the “liberal media” when it is done by everyone.

  • MeanLizzie

    I think its completely ungenerous to speculate about whether or not ppl have had abortions. Beyond the fact that it’s no one’s business but their’s and God’s it just seems like a pointless waste of time and energy…why not spend it praying for the people you don’t like — for their salvation — a better use of time, no?

  • TapestryGarden

    The hypocrisy of the Left knows no bounds. They are all about choice ONLY when it comes to what is done with genitalia but abhor choice in medical care, lightbulbs, gas mileage, and in the essay above; school lunches. The restrictions on amount of food for young growing and active children was in my opinion, child abuse. I know how much teenage boys need to keep their motors running through school, sports, and activity level. A spinach salad and lentil soup is not going to cut it Mrs Obama.

    As to her claim she didn’t know how to feed her children, it’s a pathetic attempt to pretend that she was just one of us schmucks at the Publix who doesn’t know that the processed, prepackaged microwave food in frozen brick form may not be the healthiest choice. Mrs Obama had access to the vast array of written material on the subject of nutrition. With her Ivy League degree, surely she knows how to Google.

    Again the irony is that the Left doesn’t even recognize its appalling hypocrisy and focus on all things sexual as a point of reference where one is given credit for making decisions but heavens, the idea a parent could pack a lunch or provide information about nutrition is just impossible to believe.

  • Win Nelson

    I liked the program in Wisconsin that was linked.

    I wonder if the program affected family meals. Did students go home and encourage their families to eat at home more often and try new foods?

  • TapestryGarden

    You didn’t read the post obviously. I did not speculate but simply said that we cannot know about their “reproductive choices” throughout their relationship. They are both adamantly and militantly pro abortion. They are not pro choice but pro abortion. Mr Obama even thought babies born after failed abortions should be given no medical care. The philosophy of both of the Obamas is shockingly callous. It’s lovely they have their two beautiful girls and they are obviously devoted parents. But pro abortion advocates do not equate the unborn with the “chosen.” Thus we cannot conclude one way or the other.

  • MeanLizzie

    I did read the post and I assure you my reading comprehension is up to snuff. “We don’t know what “reproductive rights” they’ve accessed before or after the birth of their two lovely daughters.” is an open invitation to speculate on same. I still think it’s a pointless and uncharitable waste of time.

  • TapestryGarden

    OK you’re the mod so you win. I failed to make my point so I will stand down.

  • vox borealis

    Beyond the fact that it’s no one’s business but their’s and God’s it just seems like a pointless waste of time and energy…

    I agree with your general point, that this is ungenerous speculation and a waste of time, but I strongly disagree with your assessment that this is between teh individual and God and none of our business. I hold that abortion is murder, and murder is certainly the community’s business. Moreover, I would argue that taking the position this is a private matter between the individual and God plays exactly into (so-called) pro-choice rhetoric.

  • MeanLizzie

    What do you want to do, find all the women who have had abortions, identify them and charge them criminally? Abortion is “legal”, and is likely to remain so and that being the case, it is, ultimately, between the woman and God.

  • Manny

    What was that you were just saying about ungenerous speculation?

    Besides, vox borealis is right that framing it that way is the pro-aborts like to talk. The fact that something is legal does not mean that it is no one’s business.

  • vox borealis

    What do I *want*? I want abortion to be illegal and, moreover, for the practice to fall into complete disuse. Do I propose to find all women who have had abortions and charge them criminally? No. My proposal would be to charge the doctors with murder.

    But that is neither here nor there. Just because something is *legal* does not necessarily make it a private matter. The legality or illegality of an act should have little bearing on whether something is ultimatately between a person and God. In fact, the entire line of reasoning is bogus. ALL actions are *ultimately* between an individual and God.

    No, what I am saying is that we should not play into the “privacy” rhetoric of the (so-called) pro-choice side. Why shoudl abortion be a private matter? Giveing birth is not a private matter. Births are recorded by the community for legal reasons, and traditionally births are announced in the local newspaper. Likewise, executions are not private: this is a matter for the public to know about and weigh in on. Also murder is public, and so too is the natural death of a member of the community. All of these are matters of public record and publicized in varying degrees.

    So why should we treat abortion differently? Why should we even argue that it should be traeted differently? If we believe that abortion involves the death of a human, a person, then it should be a matter of public record, and it is really quite easy to justify this. However, if we acceot the privacy argument we are in effect accept this abortion is simply a medical procedure involving one individual (which is of course a confidential matter), and that fits naturally with the pro-abortion persepctive.

    So come on, let’s think outside the box here.

  • I_M_Forman

    She can talk about healthy foods all she wants but it is the Culture of Death that she espouses that I can’t swallow.

  • I_M_Forman

    Evil was legal in the past as well. Slavery, segregation and discrimination all had the force of law behind them. Abortion IS NOT between the woman and God! It is an apostasy against God! Truth exists and will never be trumped by individualism not matter how enthusiastically that individual champions relativism. Abortion is an intrinsic evil. Eternity is not like “All Dogs go to Heaven” ; there is a consequence for the blood of an innocent one. The earth itself even cries out over the crime. For whatever reason you champion abortion renounce your cause. My sister – your eternal soul is at risk! Truth exists, and Truth is a somebody – our Lord Jesus Christ, who in His ocean of Mercy can bring you back to him. Follow the advice of that sweet Doctor of the Church, St, Catherine of Siena, when she heard Christ say “Open the eye of thy intellect, and gaze into Me, and thou shalt see the beauty of My rational creature.” You were made in the image of God MeanLizzie. So is that child. Christ will heal all of those woman that were not true to their beautiful nature if they just turn to him. They too, are allowed remorse, mercy and healing from this. All they have to do is turn to Christ.

  • I_M_Forman

    No, just have them find healing and mercy in Christ. They were lied to. Abortion is not true to a woman’s nature. Truth predates any state and codification of laws. Once conceived, souls are eternal and will also outlast states and their written laws. (Distinguish between nations, which are people with common characteristic as opposed to a state – a legal edifice that comes and goes over time.) Those characteristics of Natural Law evidence the fact that God gives rights because we are made in His image. Not the least of these laws are the Right to Life. Truth, who is Christ, cannot be fenced in by mere human social contracts. In your heart you know that you want that peace, but you will never get it without Christ or accepting his mercy.

  • I_M_Forman

    An Eternal soul is never pointless and an uncharitable waste of time. Christ is Truth. How much simpler is it then that? We are blessed with a Magisterium that settles such a question as abortion. It is not about their reproductive rights, which is a mere lawyer’s slight of hand that impressed a court. It is about following the Truth. If they do not then they should start. Eternity is usually between a son or daughter of God and God, but the teaching that Truth exists and why is everyone’s business.

  • MeanLizzie

    I agree with all oft that.

  • MeanLizzie

    I wasn’t speculating, I was asking, and he answered.

  • MeanLizzie

    I never said the eternal soul is pointless. I said speculating about whether or not these women had abortions is a waste of time and yes, uncharitable. Why speculate when you can just pray for them to the God who knows?

  • rod mason

    I don’t care if she has a doctorate in child nutrition, there’s something very wrong w/Michelle Obama if she can’t understand the basic humanity of an unborn child, and thinks in the usual uber-feminist mode that it’s OK for there to be “open season” on uborns if she and her ilk just want to exercise their”constitutional” option of “choice” to kill said “fetus” in the womb, WHATEVER the reason. And I don’t buy that Michelle just doesn’t “get” the part about the HUMANITY of each and every unborn human “fetus.” She doesn’t WANT to get it. Just like her husband. But maybe that’s just me. I’m such a STICKLER for clear moral thinking..

  • Proteios

    Pro choice only applies to one topic. They are anti choice in everything else I can see. It is the consistent theme of schiziphrenia that hat has become synonymous with democrats.

  • Jane the Actuary

    Yeah, I read this article and it left me unsure about the reality behind her statements: was she, in fact, doing an awful job feeding her kids, and thus believes that (rather than it being a personal failing) it’s simply not possible to do so without the nanny state taking charge, or was she doing just fine but surrounded by an all-organic, all whole-grain, no sugar community at her children’s super-wealthy school? Or was she stretching the truth to try to make a personal connection to her audience?

    http://janetheactuary.blogspot.com/2014/06/michelle-obama-didnt-know-how-to.html

  • WebAntOnYouTube

    What you seem to be advocating is that school cooks make foods that appear to be unappealing or are currently unappealing, appealing. I say put more money into public schools so that they can hire better cooks and/or have plenty of ingredients to spice meals up with. Problem solved.

  • WebAntOnYouTube

    Too many parents are failing the job you just outlined so the First Lady has taken steps to make up for that. I guess she should be taken out and shot for trying to help kids out. Sigh.

  • WebAntOnYouTube

    You have just made a fantastic argument for a complete overhaul of the food programs for schools. The kitchens should be like those in a restaurant and those hired to be cooks should actually cook. I’d vote in a heartbeat to increase federal funding for public schools to get that done. Would you?

  • MeanLizzie

    Really, you got “she should be taken out and shot for trying to help kids” out of that? Strawman, much? Everyone here wants kids to eat well, and my first paragraph said I liked Mrs. Obama’s intentions…but the plan that currently exists isn’t cutting it.

  • MeanLizzie

    I’m not even sure what your first line means. I’m certainly NOT advocating that school cooks make food that is unappealing. I’m saying give the schools proper budgets and then create sensible healthy menus, not pre-made, frozen glop that no one wants to eat, and unrealistic caloric and protein measures. Re-read the piece, pls, especially the first paragraph where I am very clear that I can get behind Mrs. Obama’s intentions, but not her methods.

  • http://europa-antiqua-arca.blogspot.com/ clavdivs

    She has one job, recommend healthy meals for kids, doesn’t seem that hard, but she can’t even get that right.


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