Michelle Obama

Stepping Back or Stepping Up on Food Policy?

You could see it coming. New leadership in the USDA was careful about pulling back on food policy. “We’re not unwinding or winding back any nutritional standards at all,” said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. He paired these words with actions to ease up on standards advocated by Michelle Obama. But this week it was the former first lady’s turn.

Enduring Passion for Good Food Policy

Obama spoke at the annual summit of the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) on Friday. Though she didn’t call out any politicians, she had sharp words for anyone who would open the door for junk food at school. Excerpts of her remarks, ranging from school nutrition to food labeling, make her enduring passion for food policy clear:

If we really want to make this country great, then our kids need to be healthy and they need to have access to the best. Not just some of them, but all of them.

You have to stop and think: Why don’t we want kids to have good food at schools? What is wrong with you? Why would that be political?

Think about why someone is okay with your kids eating crap. Why would you celebrate that? Why would you sit idly and be okay with that? Because here’s the secret: If someone is doing that, they don’t care about your kid.

This just isn’t that complicated, you know? Just tell me what’s in my food. Why is there a problem?

My commitment to these issues is real. When you hear me getting riled up in this chair, it’s not politics — it’s parenting that’s really moving me.

Private Partnerships That Won’t Fade Away

Perhaps it’s ironic. Many food policy advocates are stuck in an adversarial relationship with food and beverage companies. They criticized Obama for “selling out” when she struck deals with some of them.

But it’s those deals that just might have the most lasting impact on the food supply. Announcing more than a dozen new agreements, PHA CEO Larry Soler said:

Washington is Washington, but progress will continue. We’re proving the private sector can play as big a role as policy change.

Engaging the industry and nudging it toward a healthier business model is smart. And it’s the one part of Obama’s legacy that the new administration can’t erase.

Click here for more from Politico and here for more from the Washington Post.

Former First Lady Michelle Obama, photograph © Gage Skidmore / flickr

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May 14, 2017

3 Responses to “Stepping Back or Stepping Up on Food Policy?”

  1. May 14, 2017 at 7:02 am, Joe Gitchell said:

    Thank you, Ted, for this helpful synthesis and explication. It sure has lessons for nicotine, too.

    In that vein, had you seen this piece?


    Pretty darn relevant, in my biased opinion!


    • May 14, 2017 at 7:38 am, Ted said:

      And right on the mark, Joe. Thanks!

  2. May 17, 2017 at 9:38 pm, Allen Browne said:

    Unless the food at school is better, it is still bad. Amazing how the welfare of the children can be ignored.