#ThanksMichelleObama for 'mystery mush' and 'plastic food.' First lady fair target?

#ThanksMichelleObama is a Twitter hashtag that sarcastically highlights unappetizing school lunches in the wake of the first lady's anti-obesity campaign. 

Twitter: Hunter Whitney @huntwhitney4

Complaining about public school lunches is a time-honored tradition, but now it has its own hashtag.

The high school students frustrated with “mystery mush” and “corn that tastes like plastic” have a particular target for their gripes — not the lunch lady, but Michelle Obama.

The first lady, a champion of healthy eating, is taking heat now on Twitter with the sarcastic hashtag “#ThanksMichelleObama.”

Mrs. Obama was a supporter of the USDA 2012 school lunch standards which asked schools to offer fruit and vegetables each school day, more whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk. Limiting calories and saturated fat were two other priorities of the nutrition standards, which began to be phased in over the 2012-13 academic year.

But students are responding on Twitter to what they perceive as a shift to healthy-but-unappetizing school meals.

One of the more popular tweets came from Hunter Whitney, 17, of Wisconsin — his photo of his school’s “Spanish rice,” which he dubbed “mystery mush,” has been retweeted more than 375 times. 

“I know it's not my only food option,” he followed up on Twitter Friday night. “I am very well able to pack my own lunch and I do on occasion. It's that they consider this healthy.”

One Michigan student told the Associated Press that she blames federal standards, not her school. “I know that they’re just following the rules,” she said.

According to a USDA statement, “many of the photos posted do not fully reflect the full range of choices students are provided.”

Some Twitter users responded to the sarcastic thanks-givers by calling them ungrateful. They suggested that the real blame lies with the school chefs and, in turn, they shared some of the more appetizing-looking school lunches.

That's exactly what Rebecca Polson is doing, too.

Rebecca Polson is the head chef for Metro Nashville Public Schools, which says it serves 8.4 million lunches each school year. She has used #ThanksMichelleObama to highlight bright red tomatoes and crisp lettuce filling a salad bar, breakfast in the classroom, and bruschetta chicken.

 On average, Ms. Polson wrote on Twitter, her school serves 20,000 more meals a day than last year.

The standards supported by Mrs. Obama have hit a few roadblocks since 2012. Last spring, the USDA said that schools demonstrating “significant challenges” in transitioning to whole-grain pasta could delay the swap for two years. The USDA also said it would phase in the standards, rather than require immediate compliance. 

But Time reported that the USDA changes are already making positive changes in student diets. Obesity rates fell in high school students who attend schools that complied with federal standards. More fruits and vegetables, as well as low-fat milk, brought lower obesity rates, according to a 2014 study published in JAMA Pediatrics.  

It's unlikely that Michelle Obama will be deterred by the #ThanksMichelleObama campaign. In fact, she's already proven her social media clout. It's more likely that she'll counter by ratcheting up her campaign, producing something like the dancing with turnip video that proved so popular last month. 

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.