First lady Michelle Obama used the pages of The New York Times Thursday to slam Republicans who she believes have stood in the way of her Let’s Move! campaign to fight childhood obesity.
“When we began our Let’s Move! initiative four years ago, we set one simple but ambitious goal: to end the epidemic of childhood obesity in a generation so that kids born today will grow up healthy,” wrote Obama.
She touted the program’s “evidence-based” approach, which relies on “the most current science,” she said. Science has led to a revamping of school lunches to be lower in sugar, salt and fat.
The op-ed is part of a push this week by Obama to readdress what has become her pet issue as first lady.
On Tuesday, Obama spoke to a gathering of school nutritionists and admonished Republicans and some outside groups for wanting to “roll back everything we have worked for.”
In her Times op-ed, Obama resumed the attack, slamming the GOP-led Congress for what she sees as attempts “to undo so much of what we’ve accomplished on behalf of our children,” citing proposed tweaks to the Women, Infants and Children program, known as WIC.
She accused the GOP-led House of wanting to “override science” by mandating that white potatoes be included in a list of foods women can purchase under WIC.
She wants to see other fresh fruits and vegetables included instead, she said.
“Yet some members of the House of Representatives are now threatening to roll back these new standards and lower the quality of food our kids get in school,” wrote Obama.
“They want to make it optional, not mandatory, for schools to serve fruits and vegetables to our kids. They also want to allow more sodium and fewer whole grains than recommended into school lunches,” she wrote, noting that the House appropriations committee will take up the U.S. Department of Agriculture spending bill on Thursday.
Republicans have been pushing for reprieve for schools that are having trouble covering the added costs of complying with the new school lunch mandates.
And earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture allowed schools two extra years to comply if they could show that they face difficulty in meeting a mandate to provide whole grain-rich pastas in school lunches.
Some schools have said they are having trouble cooking the pastas for mass consumption because they fell apart during production.
Obama said that the rollbacks would undermine much of what she claims Let’s Move! has accomplished, citing a study from the Centers of Disease Control released in February that purported to show a 43 percent decline in obesity rates for children between 2 and 5 years old between 2003 and 2012.
“Today, we are seeing glimmers of progress,” Obama wrote.
“Tens of millions of kids are getting better nutrition in school; families are thinking more carefully about food they eat, cook and buy; companies are rushing to create healthier products to meet the growing demand; and the obesity rate is finally beginning to fall from its peak among our youngest children.”
Included in that passage was a link to a New York Times article written in February that highlighted the CDC study, though the study has been criticized by some scientists.
Given that Obama’s Let’s Move was founded in 2010, some scientists questioned whether the initiative would have started showing such drastic results so quickly. (RELATED: Emails shed light on how the CDC looked to give ‘a shout out’ to Michelle Obama)
Children between 2 and 19 years old showed virtually no progress in terms of obesity rates.
“The programs that have been implemented, from changing what’s in vending machines to the Let’s Move program, target school-age children more than preschoolers,” Lee Kaplan, director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Weight Center, told Reuters.
Emails obtained by The Daily Caller also showed the CDC press office working to include Obama and Let’s Move in press releases, despite the fact that the CDC study did not attribute its reported gains to the first lady or her program.
One staffer wrote that a press item she was working on “of course gives a shout out to Mrs. Obama”.
“The first lady is doing a series of events this week to mark the 4th anniversary of Let’s Move so this release highlights the decline in obesity prevalence among children aged 2-5 years,” wrote one press official.
After the study and The New York Times article were published, a number of scientists declared that it was too early to tell whether childhood obesity rates have actually fallen. They pointed to the study’s small sample size as one potential problem.