“Thanks, Michelle Obama”: The reaction to healthier food in schools


Hallie O'Rourke

Healthy food options have taken over vending machines

Hallie O'Rourke, Assistant Academics Editor

As First Lady, Michelle Obama has made it her personal goal to improve the health of people of the United States, especially the youth. She aims to combat childhood obesity through improved nutrition and an emphasis on exercise. In order to achieve these goals, she has implemented programs such as the “Let’s Move!” campaign to encourage healthy behavior. One of the newest and most noticeable changes that she has advocated for are the healthier foods in public schools across the nation.

The Smart Snack School Rule was put into action at FCPS schools for the 2014-2015 school year. All foods sold during school hours on school grounds were targeted by this government mandate, meaning schools no longer sell candy or sugary drinks. Even at concessions after school, there are no longer candies or sweets. Instead, all snack options have been changed to products that contain fewer calories, lower sugar and lower sodium content in order to comply with new nutrition standards.

These food guidelines mainly caused changes in food sold outside of the cafeteria, such as the vending machines and after-school concessions. Even so, there has been a lot of work in our own cafeteria to include foods in school lunches that better fit these nutrition standards.

“We have much more fresh food,” Principal Teresa Johnson said. “[This is a great change,] as opposed to five or ten years ago when we had a lot of canned food.”

We can all agree that fresh fruits and vegetables are very healthy and a positive change in school food, but at first, not everyone liked the new idea of being forced to purchase fruits and vegetables every time they bought a school lunch. This attitude was seen across the nation, not just in our school. The National School Board Association (NSBA) reported that 83.7 percent of school districts in the United States have seen an increase in wasted foods. This change developed after the implementation of the 2010 law for new food standards.

“[When the changes first started,] a lot of kids were just throwing [the new food] away,” Johnson said.

Although the First Lady means well with all of these changes, some of the food is just not very popular among students. An NSBA survey shows that more than four-fifths of school districts across the nation are seeing more kids throwing away school lunches than kids actually eating them. They also reported that 76.5 percent of students do not want to eat the new healthy food.

One of the biggest complaints at the school is the replacement of the chocolate chip cookies that students had come to know and love. The cookies sold in the cafeteria in years past were highly favored among the student body. With the new nutrition standards, the old cookies were out.  Many feel that the new healthy cookies that came this year simply aren’t as tasty as before.

“I think the cookies are the most significant change [in school food] since the cookies were really great last year and I used to buy a lot of them,” sophomore Zach Thurneysen said.

However, students’ prayers have been briefly answered, as the cafeteria recently brought back the old and arguably better cookies for a limited amount of time. There was a ton of positive reaction to this quick change, which shows that students seem to prefer unhealthier food options. The cookie issue is just one example of how some students are reacting negatively to the new nutrition standards encouraged by Michelle Obama.

Although certain changes have been unpopular, some of these standards are definitely for the better. I hardly buy school lunch, but when I do, I can feel better about it knowing that I’m purchasing and consuming fresh fruits and vegetables. A balanced diet and good exercise are important to leading a healthy lifestyle, and I appreciate Michelle Obama’s plan to encourage that. Even though some students are whining about having to purchase fruits and vegetables and placing all the blame on Michelle Obama, these changes are ultimately for their benefit.