First Lady Michelle Obama Announces New Efforts to Support Healthy School Food

  • February 28, 2014
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Limits on junk food marketing, expansion of the community eligibility option

Last Tuesday, HSC had the opportunity to join dozens of other school health advocates at the White House for a special announcement from first lady Michelle Obama. We were thrilled to be invited to this event and to hear the First Lady speak about the importance of healthy school food.

Tuesday’s event was part of a series of announcements that are taking place this week to celebrate the fourth anniversary of Let’s Move! We’ve seen the impact of Let’s Move! in Chicago, from schools providing students with regular physical activity to schools increasing the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables, and we applaud the First Lady for launching this important effort four years ago.

At Tuesday’s event the First Lady made two very important announcements: a proposed rule on limiting junk food marketing in schools and an expansion of how low-income schools can fund school meals for all students, the community eligibility option.

“The First Lady has created a movement for student health, and today’s actions are continuing these efforts in a powerful way,” said Rochelle Davis, President and CEO of Healthy Schools Campaign. “Limiting junk food marketing in our schools is necessary so that we can provide consistent messages to our kids throughout the school day, and the community eligibility option will increase access to healthy meals while reducing paperwork burdens on schools.”

Community eligibility allows schools with high percentages of low-income children to provide free breakfast and lunch to all students. “There are currently millions of students across the country who face barriers to accessing a healthy school lunch, from a cumbersome application process to the social stigmas associated with receiving free meals. The community eligibility option will help alleviate these barriers and allow school nutrition programs to focus on creating nutritious meals rather than managing paperwork,” said Davis. “This is a huge benefit for schools and students alike.”

For the past two years, schools in a handful of states — including Illinois — have been piloting the new community eligibility option. “As the largest school district in Illinois, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is one of the districts that has been benefiting from community eligibility,” says Leslie Fowler, Executive Director of Nutrition Support Services, CPS. “Our department’s main goal is to feed students healthy meals so that they are ready to learn. Providing breakfast and lunch free of charge to all students through community eligibility has boosted participation by removing barriers like household applications and fees collected from students. Feeding more children allows us to increase students’ access to healthy and nutritious meals, in every neighborhood across the city.”

To hear more of Tuesday morning’s announcement and hear the First Lady “wrap” about healthy school food check out this video from the event!

HSC supports both of the First Lady’s new efforts to improve school food and will work with its partners to ensure students have access to healthy school environments.