Former U.S. first lady Michelle Obama has criticized the new Trump administration’s directives on school lunches during her first high-profile public appearance since leaving the White House.
Obama, who led a nationwide effort to reduce childhood obesity while first lady, told an annual health conference Friday in Washington that more nutritious school lunches are important because millions of children receive federally subsidized meals at school.
The Trump administration recently said it would delay federal rules promoted by Obama aimed at trying to make school lunches healthier.
Without mentioning the Trump administration by name, Obama urged parents to think about the new government directives and the motives behind them.
“I don’t care what state you live in, take me out of the equation — like me, don’t like me — but think about why someone is OK with your kids eating crap. Why would you celebrate that?” she said during the keynote speech.
She said healthier school lunches should not be a political issue.
“You have to stop and think, ‘Why don’t you want our kids to have good food at school?’ What is wrong with you? And why is that a partisan issue? Why would that be political? What is going on?’ ” she asked.
In one of his first major actions, Sonny Perdue, Trump’s new agriculture secretary, said the department will delay some school lunch rules, including reducing sodium in the meals and increasing whole wheat.
“If kids aren’t eating the food and it’s ending up in the trash, they aren’t getting any nutrition … undermining the intent of the program,” Perdue said earlier this month. The secretary said he appreciates what Obama wanted to do, but he said his department wants to adjust the program to make the healthier food more appetizing.
Under the 2012 Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, schools that wanted federal meal subsidies would have to put limits on salt and fat in lunches, and add more fruit, vegetables and whole grains to the menus.
Health experts say U.S. children do not exercise enough and that one child in six is overweight.