First Lady Credits School Lunch Program for Bolstering National Security

By Penny Starr | March 1, 2010 | 6:07 PM EST

First lady Michelle Obama makes remarks after touring the Unity Health Care Upper Cordozo Health Center in Washington, Monday, June 29, 2009. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

( – First lady Michelle Obama said at the School Nutrition Association Conference in Washington, D.C. on Monday that individuals who work in school cafeterias across the country not only educate and feed children, but help to strengthen national security.
“Every day, with the food you serve, you're teaching them these critical lessons about nutrition and healthy eating,” Obama said. “You're shaping their habits and their preferences, and you're affecting the choices that they're going to make for the rest of their lives.”
She said the responsibility of feeding 31 million children through school food programs at the nation’s public schools means that food workers are shaping the future of this country. She noted that the National School Lunch Program was started under President Harry S. Truman “after World War II, back when one of the most common disqualifiers for military service was malnourishment, if you can believe that.”
“And that's why President Johnson later in 1966 expanded the program to include school breakfasts and meals at preschools because, as he put it, he said that ‘good nutrition is essential to good learning,” Obama said.
“So whether it's national security, education or child hunger, for decades we've looked to you for help in achieving our most urgent national priorities,” said the first lady.
Obama’s speech is part of the “Let’s Move” campaign that she launched last month to end childhood obesity. The program has several elements, including educating parents about nutrition, partnering with states and local school districts to bring healthier meals to school cafeterias, and enlisting celebrity athletes to promote the campaign.
A task force made up of cabinet secretaries and senior Obama administration officials has 90 days to come up with more recommendations, Obama said.
The “Let’s Move” campaign also aims to eliminate “food deserts” with the $400 million a year Healthy Food Financing Initiative, which will bring grocery stores to communities without them and “help” convenience stores already in those neighborhoods offer healthier food choices.