Change has come to the America's school cafeterias, and the woman who helped deliver it is convinced that students will learn to like it.
First lady Michelle Obama says that the new school lunch standards that mandate servings of fruit and vegetables and limit the amount of sodium, sugar and fat will eventually become accepted as the norm by school kids.
“We’re really thinking about the kids who are kindergartners today,” Obama said in an interview with Cooking Light magazine. “If all they know are whole grains and vegetables, by the time they’re graduating from high school, this will be their norm; they won’t know anything different.”
Designed to help curb the childhood obesity epidemic, Obama's "Let's Move" program helped usher in new health standards laid out in the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 that veered away from processed foods and soda machines in cafeterias, replacing those items with healthier choices. The changes resulted in a backlash, however, from students who had become accustomed to less wholesome fare, and soon kids across the country began using the #ThanksMichelleObama hashtag to post pictures of less than appetizing lunches being offered at school.
"Change is hard for anybody. And when you’re talking about food, food is really personal. So when you’re telling people to rethink their dietary habits that they’ve lived with all their lives, it’s really personal," Obama said of the initial resistance to the new standards. "So finding a way to deliver a message of change that’s positive, that’s not accusatory, it’s uplifting, it’s fun, and it doesn’t place blame but gives people the information to kind of come to their own realizations about what they want out of life. And starting with kids has been an important first step because, as I’ve always said, parents will do for their kids what they won’t do for themselves."
Some Congressional Republicans have criticized the standards as being too intrusive, and have introduced legislation to weaken the requirements on schools. While it remains uncertain whether their efforts will prove successful, Obama remains convinced that government has a role to play in helping teach kids how to eat more healthy.
"We’re looking at that kid going through high school and then entering college with a whole new set of habits and taste buds," Obama said. "These kids will be acclimated to different tastes, and then they’ll go into college with that set of information and those skills and those norms. And hopefully they’ll become the voices of their generation for how to eat and live and build a quality life. We’re looking at those kids, and when they start to raise their own kids and they start passing on those habits to the next generation."