Michelle Obama: Advice to my teen-age self

Michelle Obama: Advice to My Younger SelfWhat advice would you give to your younger self? People asked Michelle Obama.

“Stop being so afraid!,” she replied. “That’s really what strikes me when I look back – the sheer amount of time I spent tangled up in fears and doubts that were entirely of my own creation. I was afraid of not knowing the answer in class and looking stupid, or worried about what some boy thought of me, or wondering whether the other girls liked my clothes or my hair, or angsting about some offhand comment someone made to me in the lunchroom.”

I would love to go back in time and tell my younger self, “Michelle, these middle and high school years are just a tiny blip in your life, and all the slights and embarrassments and heartaches, all those times you got that one question wrong on that test – none of that is important in the scheme of things.”

When my daughter entered her teens, I shared my hard-won wisdom. “Other people don’t care about your hair or your clothes. They’re worried about their own hair and their own clothes.”

Pink cookie is banned — and in demand

Pink cookies will not be sold at Elyria, Ohio schools, reports the Chronicle-Telegram. The popular cookies  — named Best Cafeteria Cookie by Cleveland magazine in 2009 — have too much real butter and sour cream icing to meet federal guidelines.

A tray of pink cookies are seen at Elyria Schools.  CHRONICLE FILE PHOTO

“We could modify the recipe by changing the size, using whole-grain flour or putting on less icing, but in doing that you are not making the same cookies,”  said Scott Teaman, food services director with Sodexo Inc., the district’s contracted food provider. “There is only one way to do the pink cookie, and to do it any other way would not do it justice.”

Forty years ago, Jean Gawlik, the former food production manager for Elyria Schools, used her mother’s recipe for the pink cookies.

You can’t change the recipe of the pink cookie,” said Elyria Mayor Holly Brinda. “It’s like eating diet potato chips. It’s not right.” Pink cookies are “one of those things that’s special to our community.”

The cookie ban has spurred demand, reports Reason’s Hit & Run. The bakers are taking special orders for “the perfect cookie.”  If the district can figure out how to ship the cookies, they now have customers around the country and in Canada asking for a box of pinks.

Students say healthy lunches are ‘tolerable’

Sixty-three percent of high school students and 70 percent of middle schoolers say the new, healthier school lunches are tolerable, according to a new report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. 
Complaints about the food are down, students said. But food waste is up.

Some school districts are dropping out of the federal lunch program because they’re losing money, reports Education News. More full-pay students are brown-bagging or going off campus to buy lunch.

In Fort Thomas, Kentucky, students are rejecting the cafeteria food, says Superintendent Gene Kirchner.

“We watch children every day walk past the cash register and then throw away things that we are forced, have forced them to take essentially, as a result of the federal requirements for lunches … There’s no guarantee that the things they bring from home are healthier, or that if they stop by the minute market on the way to school and what they grabbed at that point is a healthier option,” Kirchner said.

My nutritionist stepdaughter will not be designing school lunches this year. The “ridiculous” federal rules have made it so time-consuming that the nonprofit where she works was losing money on the contract.

Kids won’t eat healthy school lunches

Making School Lunches Healthier Doesn’t Mean Kids Will Eat Them, writes Olga Khazan in The Atlantic.

Los Angeles Unified has been fighting childhood obesity for years: It ” outlawed sodas in schools in 2004, banned selling junk food on campus, and swapped the bulk of its canned and frozen produce for fresh,” writes Khazan. Still,  42 percent of students are overweight or obese.

In 2011, the district went after school lunches.

. .  .the new menus were the most austere measure yet, cutting kid-friendly favorites like chocolate milk, chicken nuggets, corn dogs, and nachos. Instead, little Jayden and Mia would dine would dine on vegetarian curries, tostada salad, and fresh pears.

A student rebellion ensued—kids brought Flamin’ Hot Cheetos to school rather than much on quinoa salad—and L.A. Unified was forced to settle for a middle ground between Alice Waters and Ronald McDonald.

Under the new new menu, “Hamburgers will be offered daily,” the L.A. Times reported. “Some of the more exotic dishes are out, including the beef jambalaya, vegetable curry, pad Thai, lentil and brown rice cutlets, and quinoa and black-eyed pea salads. And the Caribbean meatball sauce will be changed to the more familiar teriyaki flavor.”

But students are still “beelining toward carbs and meat and avoiding fruits and vegetables,” according to a study in the April issue of Preventative Medicine. Examining middle schoolers lunch trays, researchers found that “32 percent of students did not take the fruit from the line, and almost 40 percent did not take the vegetables. Among those who did take a fruit or vegetable, 22 percent threw away the fruit and 31 percent tossed the vegetables without eating a single bite.”

 So in essence, just over half the students both took and ate some fruit, and about 42 percent both took and ate a vegetable.

Salads were the most common vegetable to be left untouched, while whole fruits, like apples and oranges, were far less popular than fruit cups or juices.

Food waste totals at least $100,000 a day, estimates the Times.

School districts are losing their paying lunchers because of new federal regulations, reports Reason. Congressional Republicans may give money-losing districts a one-year waiver of federal regulations, reports Reason.

Michelle Obama adamantly opposes any changes, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Other proposed changes include “scrapping a requirement that foods be 100% whole-grain by July 2014 and sticking with the current 50% target; holding to the newly enacted standard for sodium rather than a lower target scheduled to go into effect in a few years; and eliminating the requirement that students take a fruit or vegetable, regardless of whether they plan to eat it.”

One of my stepdaughter is a nutritionist who designs school lunches. The insanely complex guidelines must be met every day, she says. It’s not possible to go a little under in one category on Monday and make it up on Tuesday.

Michelle Obama pushes college, job training

It’s not just fruits, vegetables and exercise any more: Michelle Obama is using her personal story to promote postsecondary education, reports the New York Times.

The First Lady is urging low-income students to continue their education after high school “whether that’s going to a community college, or getting a technical certificate, or completing a training opportunity, or heading off to a four-year college.”

“I’m here today because I want you to know that my story can be your story,” Mrs. Obama told students at Bell Multicultural High School in Washington D.C.

The daughter of a city water worker in Chicago, Mrs. Obama attended magnet schools and earned degrees from Princeton and Harvard Law School.

‘Just Move’ stamps declared ‘unsafe’

The U.S. Postal Service will destroy the entire press run of “Just Move” stamps because of safety concerns, reports Linn’s Stamp News.

Three of the stamps in the 15- stamp series show children performing a cannonball dive, skateboarding without kneepads, and doing a headstand without a helmet. That’s unsafe, according to members of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition.

Michelle Obama, who’s been trying to encourage children to be more active, has popularized the “Just Move” slogan. She was set to take part in a first-day ceremony for the stamps — until someone decided kids need a helmet to do a headstand.

The campaign will need a new slogan: If you’re swaddled in protective gear and supervised by a certified adult, move. But be careful.

I keep looking for evidence this is a hoax. So far, nothing.

Hit & Run, which has pictures of all the “Just Move” stamps, finds more safety horrors: The baseball player isn’t wearing a helmet!

And what about the kid cartwheeling without a P.E. teacher’s supervision? The rope climber might fall!

Are we free to gambol?

Michelle O backs healthy hip hop

Hoping to get young people moving, First Lady Michelle Obama will appear  in a new hip-hop album, Songs for Healthier America, reports U.S. News. It’s just a cameo with no singing involved. 

In June, Mrs. Obama appeared in a hip-hop video urging kids to “work hard/eat right” with rapper Doug E. Fresh, singer-songwriter Jordin Sparks and TV medical personality Dr. Oz.

The full album, which includes songs with names like “Veggie Luv,” by Monifah and J Rome, “Hip Hop LEAN,” by Artie Green, and “Give Myself a Try,” by Ryan Beatty, will be released on Sept. 30 by Partnership for a Healthier America and Hip Hop Public Health.

“U R What You Eat” (featuring Salad Bar, Matisyahu, Travis Barker, and Ariana Grande) and “We Like Vegetables” (featuring Los Barkers!) also are on the album.

Black and Hispanic children, who are the biggest fans of hip-hop music, are significantly more likely to be overweight or obese compared to white children.

Jon Stewart: Eat your *#!*#! lunch!

Jon Stewart on school lunch protests: “News flash! Extry extry! School lunches suck!” And students are still hungry after they eat it. “So you hate the food and you want more of it.” (That’s an old Borscht Belt joke.)

Under the new rules, designed to fight childhood obesity, students can get seconds of fruits and vegetables, but they won’t even eat the first (mandatory) helping. Cafeteria garbage cans are twice as full. “Hmm, now I am obviously not an nutritionist or an educator,” Stewart says, “but I think if these kids are hungry, I guess my solution would be…eat your motherf**kin lunch!”

Let them eat snacks

Let them eat snacks says Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in response to student protests against lower-calorie, low-protein school lunches.

School lunch trays are a bit lighter this year after Congress-approved calorie limits on school lunches went into effect in August. The new regulations, which were championed by First Lady Michelle Obama as part of her “Let’s Move” campaign to fight childhood obesity, have inspired protests and even a video parody from students who claim the reduced lunches are making them go hungry.

. . . Vilsack said the Obama Administration is working with school districts to create snack programs and encouraging parents to pack extra food for their active students to munch on before football practice or band rehearsal.

A new federal rule limits calories for school lunches — 650 calories in elementary school, 700 in middle school and 850 in high school. Cafeterias must serve twice as many fruits and vegetables while limiting proteins and carbohydrates. Students must take the fruit and vegetables, though they can’t be required to eat them.

For an average high school student, that means two baked fish nuggets, a cup of vegetables, half a cup of mashed potatoes, one whole grain roll and 8 ounces of fat free milk . . .

Linda O’Connor, an English teacher at Wallace County High School in Kansas, wrote the “We Are Hungry” parody after a colleague, Brenda Kirkham, posted a photo of her school lunch on Facebook, reports the Christian Science Monitor.

The lunch included one cheese-stuffed bread stick, a small dollop of marinara sauce, three apple slices and some raw spinach. . . . “I asked why the sauce had no meat and I was informed that due to the breadsticks containing cheese, the meat would put us over the guidelines for protein,” Kirkham wrote.

Wallace County students often do farm chores in the morning before school and play sports after school, O’Connor said. Two ounces of meat per day isn’t enough.

Last year, students got six chicken nuggets for lunch; this year, says Callahan Grund, a 16-year-old football player who’s featured in the video. This year, students got three chicken nuggets.

Students in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Kansas have organized school lunch boycotts, packing their own brown bags.

The 850-calorie limit seems high enough, even if students don’t eat the fruit and veg. Most families can afford to send an apple or an after-school PB&J for calorie-burning athletes. I wonder about limiting protein.

Madison schools serve free dinners

Some public schools in Madison, Wisconsin are serving a free dinner to  students who participate in after-school programs.  That’s in addition to federally subsidized breakfast, lunch and post-school snacks, which are free only for children from low- and moderate-income families.

Just before 5 p.m. Wednesday, as Falk Elementary’s Safe Haven after-school program was winding down, students lined up to wash their hands for dinner.

The menu for the Madison School District’s new dinner program included turkey sandwiches, fruit cups, broccoli and chocolate milk.

It’s healthier food than the soda, sugary candy, snacks and fast food some students will eat before going to evening activities or homes with working parents who prepare later meals, after-school program director Kelly Zagrodnik said.

If the school has enough low-income students, then all students in after-school programs are eligible for a free meal, regardless of family income.  Federal funds — $2.86 per meal — cover the cost.

Mayor Paul Soglin wants free dinners at all schools to entice children to sign up for after-school program, which include “access to tutors, mentors, study skills sessions, supervised recreation and sports.”

Are there families who’d pass up after-school activities — and free child care — unless their kid could get a 5 pm dinner?

A student could eat breakfast at home, breakfast at school, lunch, after-school snack, early dinner at school and late dinner at home.  No wonder  childhood obesity is our greatest national security threat.

Or perhaps parents are supposed to stopped feeding their children at home, so the school can do it better.

Madison is a relatively affluent town, writes Ann Althouse.