Michelle O: 'Parents Have Right to Expect Their Kids Will Get Decent Food in Our Schools'

By Susan Jones | May 28, 2014 | 6:16 AM EDT

First lady Michelle Obama speaks to school leaders and experts surrounding school nutrition, Tuesday, May 27, 2014, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington.  (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

(CNSNews.com) - First lady Michelle Obama says parents "are looking for help" in making sure their children get balanced meals -- and they "don't want their efforts undermined when they send their kids off to school."

"Parents have a right to expect that their kids will get decent food in our schools," Mrs. Obama said at the White House on Tuesday. "And we all have a right to expect that our hard-earned taxpayer dollars won't be spent on junk food for our kids."

The first lady said congressional efforts to ease the new school lunch rules are "unacceptable."

"It’s unacceptable to me not just as first lady, but as a mother." She mentioned the "health crisis" facing the country.

"We’re now realizing that childhood obesity is a real issue.  And so many families are looking for help now in their efforts to find new ways to feed their families balanced meals."

Mrs. Obama accused Republicans of playing politics with children's health.

"And as parents, there is nothing that we would not do for our kids -- there is nothing. Not a thing. We always put our kids' interests first. We wake up every morning and we go to bed every night thinking and worrying about the health and well-being of our kids."

Unmentioned in the entire controversy is the fact that for millions of children and their parents, school lunches are a convenience, not a necessity. Schools still permit children to bring food from home into the cafeteria. There is nothing stopping parents who "always put our kids' interests first" from packing a nutritious lunch the night before -- or making sure their children pack their own nutritious lunch.

More than 40 House Republicans signed a letter this month to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, urging him to "provide much needed flexibility" to school food authorities.

The Republicans said the Agriculture Department "could help schools address the significant problems of plate waste, increased costs and reduced participation" by keeping the whole grain requirement at 50 percent; suspending stricter sodium requirements; and allowing any food item permitted to be served as part of a reimbursable meal to be sold at any time as a competitive food.

They also want USDA to find a way to issue waivers for schools that cannot implement the new regulations without incurring additional costs.

Also see:
Indigestion: School Boards Seek Relief From 'Onerous' School Lunch Rules