Obama, the PCRM, and That Controversial School Lunch Poster

August 12, 2009

By Mark Bishop, Deputy Director

It's a story that's been covered many many many many times already, but we'd be remiss if we didn't mention it.

In short, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
(PCRM) purchased 14 high profile ads around DC's Union Station that
showed a young girl asking why she can't have the same healthy school
lunches that the Obamas' daughters get in their school. The next day,
the White House requested that the PCRM remove the poster because of
its reference to the first daughters. PCRM declined.
In a move that is possibly as unifying as winning a medal at the
Olympic games, pundits from all across the political universe hailed
this as a dumb move.

“Renegade Lunch Lady” Chef Ann Cooper's blog writes,
“Not only is it inappropriate to target the Obama daughters in a
high-profile ad campaign, but it’s especially inappropriate considering
that President Obama has been supportive of measures that would improve
school lunch.”

And conservative political consultant Frank Luntz states,
“While it may draw short-term attention to the issue, the White House
will hate the organization for it. And I assure you they will be
punished. You don't mess with the president's children.”

Real questions arise when you unpack the ads even a bit — about
disparities in food access and quality, school funding, the nutritional
qualities of school meals — but these issues haven't gotten a lot of
attention in the resulting media storm. The PCRM's policy agenda
focuses largely on vegetarian options in school cafeterias; while the
ads are getting attention, I think the ultimate policy discussion
around school lunch and the upcoming Child Nutrition Act reauthorization won't be around vegetarianism but around access, funding and nutrition standards.
So in terms of coverage, PCRM sure got their money's worth. But I doubt this ad truly helped move their signature issue.