Former first lady Michelle Obama on Friday took some thinly veiled swipes at President Donald Trump’s administration’s rolling back of some government rules on school lunches, not using his name but warning against “kids eating crap.”
Under changes announced earlier this month, schools would not have to further cut salt in meals just yet and may serve fewer whole grains and 1 percent, flavored milk instead of nonfat milk. The move relaxes rules Obama and the former president supported.
“Moms, think about this. 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,” she said.
Obama made the remarks to a healthy-eating conference Friday. She said she focused her “Let’s Move” campaign to fight obesity on children because statistics show they are more prone to preventable illnesses such as stroke, heart disease and diabetes.
“This wasn’t, you know, fake news,” Obama said in her first public remarks to a Washington audience since leaving the White House.
“Every elected official on this planet should understand, don’t play with our children. Don’t do it,” she said.
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Obama joined old friend and former personal chef Sam Kass in the discussion at the Partnership for a Healthier America Summit. She urged people to back companies that supported mothers in making wise decisions when it came to food, saying parents needed to take charge.
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“Kids, my kids included, if they could eat pizza and french fries every day with ice cream on top and a soda, they would think they were happy, until they got sick,” she said.
“Before you know it, your kid has Type 2 diabetes, and you’re confused and shocked and hurt,” she said.
“And I hope you have health care,” she added, in another dig at Trump.
Obama said her “deep passion” for childhood nutrition arose not from being first lady but from being a mother. “When you hear me getting riled up in this chair, it’s not politics. It’s parenting,” she said to applause.
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The Trump administration announced earlier this month it was loosening some government nutrition rules for schools that take federal dollars for free and reduced-price meals for poor students. She and the former president championed tougher rules as part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.
“If kids aren’t eating the food, and it’s ending up in the trash, they aren’t getting any nutrition — thus undermining the intent of the program,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in announcing the changes.
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Obama suggested Friday that nutrition and health could be among the causes the former president’s new presidential center in Jackson Park would emphasize. She also said she would keep up other past commitments and singled out supporting girls’ education and military families.
Her trip to Chicago with the former president last week to unveil the center’s design gave her a “few hours” in their Kenwood home — and the kitchen where her campaign for healthier eating began with Kass. The chef cooked for the family in Chicago and later at the White House, and for a time, he was executive director of “Let’s Move.” It’s been a whirlwind week for Kass, who appeared Tuesday in Milan with former President Barack Obama at a conference on food and climate change.
On Friday, Kass and the former first lady lamented a move to delay or end rules governing the enhanced disclosure of calories, sugar, fiber and serving size from food labels.
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Obama recalled she’d known Kass since he was a teen. When she later learned he was a chef helping families to better their diets, he came to their Chicago home when her two daughters were young. She said they began chucking processed foods in their kitchen into the garbage — to the dismay of older daughter Malia, who found it hard to part with boxed macaroni and cheese.
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To a question from Kass, she said her family was doing well and had a gentle jab at her spouse’s attire in Italy. “The president is good,” she said. “He’s, you know, running around out there in the world, with his shirt unbuttoned.”
She also said they are taking time to breathe and think strategically about how to use her new platform while setting up a new home and office, and parenting.
“I have one kid going to college,” said Obama, adding with a bit of rue, “and another just being 16.”
The D.C. summit also drew former President Bill Clinton, supermodel Cindy Crawford and actress Gabrielle Union. It meant a friendly and familiar audience for the former first lady, because the meetings brought together her allies: people in the business, nonprofit, academic and government sectors gathered to talk about reducing sugar consumption, teaching children to cook, fostering healthy lifestyles and improving housing.
“First lady for life,” a man called out as she spoke.
“I paid him,” she deadpanned from the stage. “We’ll get your check.
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