The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens


Obama proclaims National School Lunch Week

President Barack Obama has proclaimed October 15 to 19 National School Lunch Week as school cafeteria managers planned events to highlight the new healthy foods menus and Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., praised the students who are protesting the calorie limits that have been imposed to fight childhood obesity.

“During National School Lunch Week, we recognize all those whose dedicated work and care make good nutrition a reality for our sons and daughters,” Obama said in the proclamation issued by the White House on Saturday.

“Our students deserve the best possible chance to live healthy, productive lives,” he said. “Since the National School Lunch Program was founded over six decades ago, schools have served over 200 billion lunches that have helped generations of children achieve in the classroom and grow into our country's next generation of leaders.”

“This school year, the program will carry that legacy forward by providing nutritious meals for tens of millions of students every day,” Obama continued.

“These meals are a vital source of fruits, vegetables, and other fresh and nutritious foods for our nation’s young people. Through efforts like First Lady Michelle Obama’s ‘Let’s Move!’ initiative, we are continuing to bring together stakeholders at every level of government, in the private sector, and throughout our communities to ensure more children have access to the healthy, affordable food they need to learn and grow.”

More than 31 million children participate in the national school lunch program.

The School Nutrition Association said in a news release last week that cafeterias are planning a “What’s Cooking” campaign that will include student taste tests, chef-inspired recipes, nutrition education initiatives and a “Take Your Parents to Lunch Day” on Wednesday. SNA also released a video on the new school lunches.

Jamie Oliver, the chef who raised the “pink slime” issue and has been a frequent critics of school meals, sent a message on his “Food Revolution” website that students and parents should “show your lunch ladies (and gentlemen!) the love they deserve. Tell them thank you TODAY for their hard work serving up healthy delicious school meals.”

The Agriculture Department has also proclaimed October “Farm to School” month and has updated its website that farmers and distributors use to sell locally grown products to the schools.

Meanwhile, Huelskamp said in a news release that he visited on Wednesday with students and teachers at Wallace County High School in Sharon Springs, Kan., who produced the “We are Hungry” video.

Huelskamp, who with Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, has introduced the “No Hungry Kids Act” to repeal the USDA’s rule that created the new standards and to prohibit the USDA’s upper caloric limits, praised the students for their actions.

“I am so honored and proud to represent Sharon Springs students and their teachers in Congress,” Huelskamp said. “They refuse to let a top-down, heavy-handed federal government dictate what should be a day-to-day local decision: what goes on to the cafeteria tray. At a very young age, these students are learning first-hand the consequences of what happens when government becomes too powerful.”

“But, they are also learning about the power of activism, and how an average person can transform a debate and influence public policy,” Huelskamp said. “Nearly every major media outlet has covered this issue and in no small part due to their fun and compelling ‘We Are Hungry’ video. We are inspired by their efforts, and will continue to work toward passing the ‘No Hungry Kids Act’ in order to get these mandates off the books.”

Although Huelskamp did not note it, USDA has told schools what they must serve for decades because farm and agribusiness groups have lobbied hard to make sure that the school lunch program is a market for the foods their members produce.

Huelskamp also directed reporters to the “Nutrition Nannies” Facebook page, which includes posts from students objecting to the school meals rules. But today the page contains a message in support of the new guidelines that says: “I work as a cafeteria manager in my district, and have to say that we love these changes and so do most of the students and parents we talk to!”