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Michelle Obama: Rolling back nutrition standards is not the answer

The first lady asked Republicans and school leaders to accept the nutritional standards she has introduced since 2010, amid threats of cuts to the new rules.
Michelle Obama
U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama addresses a discussion with school nutrition experts about issues in school nutrition programs at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, May 27, 2014.
First lady Michelle Obama called on Republicans Tuesday to avoid undoing recent advances in healthy lunch policies.

"The last thing we can afford to do right now is play politics with our kids' health, especially when we are starting to see progress on this issue," Obama said at the White House during a discussion with school leaders. "Now is not the time to roll back everything we have worked for. Rolling things back is not the answer."

Obama, who rarely enters congressional policy debates, has been actively engaged as an advocate for healthy eating since she launched her Let's Move campaign in 2010. Her efforts aim to combat childhood obesity and ensure families have access to nutritional, affordable food in their communities. 

She made the appearance Tuesday to respond to congressional Republicans who want to waive previously enacted healthier school lunch standards. Republicans in the House introduced a new bill last week that seeks to address their concerns with the dietary guidelines, which they call too restrictive and costly for some school districts.

"In 10 or 20 years, I don’t want to look back with regret and think we gave up on our kids because we felt this thing was too hard or too expensive. We owe our kids way more than that," Obama said. "I think we can all agree that folks here in Washington should be on our side."

Since Obama's initiation of the campaign four years ago, large chain restaurants have offered menus with calorie-conscious options and organizations have planted gardens outside academic buildings. Additionally, thousands of American schools have reintroduced exercise into the curriculum, and at least 90% of U.S. public K-12 schools have implemented new lunch standards to serve more whole grains, lean protein, and an array of fruits and vegetables.

Obama proposed removing all junk food and soft drinks from U.S. schools starting this fall. She also teamed up last summer with celebrity musicians as part of her campaign to create an album that inspires and educates children to eat healthy and exercise regularly. She even included the Obama family's Portuguese water dog, Sunny, as the mascot for her "Drink Up" initiative to encourage Americans to consume more water.

Obesity, which affects 17% of all American children and adolescents, is triple the rate now than from one generation ago, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.