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A US Senate Cafeteria Cook Says He Needs Food Stamps to Feed His Family

A US Senate Cafeteria Cook Says He Needs Food Stamps to Feed His Family

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Bertrand Olotara is one of many Senate janitors and cooks on strike; he tells his story in an Op-Ed piece in The Guardian

Olotara says he is one of many who allegedly works 70 hours a week, and still can’t scrape enough together to feed his family.

“I am a cook in the United States Senate, but I need food stamps to feed my family.” That’s the gist of Bertrand Olotara’s story, one of the many cooks and janitors working for the United States Senate, who have walked out of their jobs due to their low wages. Olotara, for instance, is allegedly paid $12 per hour to cook for “some of the most powerful people on Earth,” according to a searing editorial Olotara wrote in The Guardian on Wednesday.

“I am walking off my job because I want the presidential hopefuls to know that I live in poverty,” writes Olotara. “Many senators canvas the country giving speeches about creating ‘opportunity’ for workers and helping our kids achieve the ‘American dream’ – most don’t seem to notice or care that workers in their own building are struggling to survive.”

Olotara and his co-workers, joined by Sen. Bernie Sanders walked out Wednesday to ask for federal contractors to award employers that pay fair wages of $15 per hour with benefits and collective bargaining. Currently the federal minimum wage is at $7.25, although President Obama is trying to raise it to $10.10 per hour.

Olotara states that he is an employee with Compass Group, an ironically U.K.-based company , which earned £8.199 million in North American revenue in 2014 ($12.33 million USD).

Cafeteria worker says she was fired for letting student who couldn’t afford lunch take food

WEST CANAAN, N.H. – When a student at a New Hampshire high school put items on his tray that he didn’t have the money for, lunchroom employee Bonnie Kimball didn’t think it was a big deal.

She told the student to make sure to pay the next day. She wasn’t worried as she had known the boy’s parents since they were children, and had no doubt that the $8 lunch tab would soon be taken care of. And the next morning, she told CNN, that’s exactly what happened.

Students and staff are rallying behind a Mascoma Valley Regional High School lunch lady fired for allowing a boy to run up an $8 lunch debt rather than go hungy. Bonnie Kimball thought she was doing the right thing and the parent did eventually pay.

&mdash (@UnionLeader) May 15, 2019

About a week later though, she was fired by the district manager of Café Services, the food services company that employed her.

“‘Do you understand what you did was wrong? That was theft,'” Kimball says she was told.

A photo of her termination letter provided to CNN shows that the company accused her of violating its procedures as well as federal and school policies. The letter was dated April 9 and said Kimball was fired on April 4.

“On March 28, a District Manager was on-site and witnessed a student coming through the line with multiple food items that you did not charge him for. This in strict violation of our Cash Handling Procedures, the Schools Charge Policy and Federal Regulation governing free meals,” the letter reads. “Your final has been processed and disbursed to you.”

Jaime Matheson, human resources director for Café Services, said in a statement that the student wouldn’t have gone without a meal.

“The student in question did receive a lunch. Students who come up to the lunch line without money receive a lunch of an entrée or sandwich plus side dishes or fresh fruit and milk. An employee of the company would not be let go because they provide this lunch to a student,” Matheson said.

“We can’t get into specifics because personnel decisions are confidential to honor privacy, however employees receive and sign their acknowledgment to company policies. When these aren’t followed, corrective action is put in place, up to and including termination. We’re all proud of our ability to provide meals to those in need,” the statement continued.

Kimball had worked at Mascoma Valley Regional High School for 4½ years, according to the New Hampshire Union Leader. She also said that two other employees in the lunchroom quit in protest of her firing.

“We miss them very much and wish we could still feed them every day,” she said.

CNN has reached out to the school but it has not yet returned a request for comment.


Early life and ancestry

Michelle LaVaughn Robinson was born on January 17, 1964, in Chicago, Illinois, to Fraser Robinson III (1935–1991), [5] a city water plant employee and Democratic precinct captain, and Marian Shields Robinson (b. July 30, 1937), a secretary at Spiegel's catalog store. [6] Her mother was a full-time homemaker until Michelle entered high school. [7]

The Robinson and Shields families trace their roots to pre-Civil War African Americans in the American South. [5] On her father's side, she is descended from the Gullah people of South Carolina's Low Country region. [8] Her paternal great-great grandfather, Jim Robinson, was born into slavery in 1850 on Friendfield Plantation, near Georgetown, South Carolina. [9] [10] He became a freedman at age 15 after the war. Some of Obama's paternal family still reside in the Georgetown area. [11] [12] Her grandfather Fraser Robinson, Jr. built his own house in South Carolina. He and his wife LaVaughn (née Johnson) returned to the Low Country from Chicago after retirement. [9]

Among her maternal ancestors was her great-great-great-grandmother, Melvinia Shields, born into slavery in South Carolina but sold to Henry Walls Shields, who had a 200-acre farm in Clayton County, Georgia near Atlanta. Melvinia's first son, Dolphus T. Shields, was biracial and born into slavery around 1860. Based on DNA and other evidence, in 2012 researchers said his father was likely 20-year-old Charles Marion Shields, son of Melvinia's master. They may have had a continuing relationship, as she had two more mixed-race children and lived near Shields after emancipation, taking his surname (she later changed her surname). [13]

As was often the case, Melvinia did not talk to relatives about Dolphus's father. [14] Dolphus Shields, with his wife Alice, moved to Birmingham, Alabama after the Civil War. They were great-great-grandparents of Michelle Robinson, whose grandparents had moved to Chicago. [14] Other of their children's lines migrated to Cleveland, Ohio in the 20th century. [13]

All four of Robinson's grandparents had multiracial ancestors, reflecting the complex history of the U.S. Her extended family has said that people did not talk about the era of slavery when they were growing up. [13] Her distant ancestry includes Irish, English, and Native American roots. [15] Among her contemporary extended family is Rabbi Capers Funnye born in Georgetown, South Carolina. Funnye is the son of her grandfather Robinson's sister and her husband, and he is about 12 years older than Michelle. Funnye converted to Judaism after college. He is a paternal first cousin once-removed. [16] [17]

Robinson's childhood home was on the upper floor of 7436 South Euclid Avenue in Chicago's South Shore community area, which her parents rented from her great-aunt, who had the first floor. [6] [18] [19] [20] She was raised in what she describes as a "conventional" home, with "the mother at home, the father works, you have dinner around the table". [21] Her elementary school was down the street. She and her family enjoyed playing games such as Monopoly, reading, and frequently saw extended family on both sides. [22] She played piano, [23] learning from her great-aunt, who was a piano teacher. [24] The Robinsons attended services at nearby South Shore United Methodist Church. [18] They used to vacation in a rustic cabin in White Cloud, Michigan. [18] She and her 21-month-older brother, Craig, skipped the second grade. [6] [25]

Her father suffered from multiple sclerosis, which had a profound emotional effect on her as she was growing up. She was determined to stay out of trouble and be a good student, which was what her father wanted for her. [26] By sixth grade, Michelle joined a gifted class at Bryn Mawr Elementary School (later renamed Bouchet Academy). [27] She attended Whitney Young High School, [28] Chicago's first magnet high school, established as a selective enrollment school, where she was a classmate of Jesse Jackson's daughter Santita. [22] The round-trip commute from the Robinsons' South Side home to the Near West Side, where the school was located, took three hours. [29] Michelle recalled being fearful of how others would perceive her, but disregarded any negativity around her and used it "to fuel me, to keep me going". [30] [31] She recalled facing gender discrimination growing up, saying, for example, that rather than asking her for her opinion on a given subject, people commonly tended to ask what her older brother thought. [32] She was on the honor roll for four years, took advanced placement classes, was a member of the National Honor Society, and served as student council treasurer. [6] She graduated in 1981 as the salutatorian of her class. [29]

Education and early career

Robinson was inspired to follow her brother to Princeton University, which she entered in 1981. [33] [7] She majored in sociology and minored in African-American studies, graduating cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in 1985 after completing a 99-page senior thesis titled "Princeton Educated Blacks and the Black Community" under the supervision of Walter Wallace. [34] [6] [35]

Robinson recalls that some of her teachers in high school tried to dissuade her from applying, and that she had been warned against "setting my sights too high". [36] [37] She believed her brother's status as an alumnus – he graduated in 1983, [38] before being hired as a basketball coach at Oregon State University and Brown University [39] – may have helped her during the admission process, [40] but she was resolved to demonstrate her own worth. [38] She has said she was overwhelmed during her first year, attributing this to the fact that neither of her parents had graduated from college, [41] and that she had never spent time on a college campus. [42]

The mother of a white roommate reportedly tried (unsuccessfully) to get her daughter reassigned because of Michelle's race. [33] Robinson said being at Princeton was the first time she became more aware of her ethnicity and, despite the willingness of her classmates and teachers to reach out to her, she still felt "like a visitor on campus". [43] [44] There were also issues of economic class. "I remember being shocked," she says, "by college students who drove BMWs. I didn't even know parents who drove BMWs." [29]

While at Princeton, Robinson became involved with the Third World Center (now known as the Carl A. Fields Center), an academic and cultural group who supported minority students. She ran their daycare center, which also offered after school tutoring for older children. [45] She challenged the teaching methodology for French because she felt it should be more conversational. [46] As part of her requirements for graduation, she wrote a sociology thesis, entitled Princeton-Educated Blacks and the Black Community. [47] [48] She researched her thesis by sending a questionnaire to African-American graduates, asking that they specify when and how comfortable they were with their race prior to their enrollment at Princeton and how they felt about it when they were a student and since then. Of the 400 alumni to whom she sent the survey, fewer than 90 responded. Her findings did not support her hope that the black alumni would still identify with the African-American community, even though they had attended an elite university and had the advantages that accrue to its graduates. [49]

Robinson pursued professional study, earning her Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree from Harvard Law School in 1988. [50] By the time she applied for Harvard Law, biographer Bond wrote, her confidence had increased: "This time around, there was no doubt in her mind that she had earned her place". [49] Her faculty mentor at Harvard Law was Charles Ogletree, who has said she had answered the question that had plagued her throughout Princeton by the time she arrived at Harvard Law: whether she would remain the product of her parents or keep the identity she had acquired at Princeton she had concluded she could be "both brilliant and black". [51]

At Harvard, Robinson participated in demonstrations advocating the hiring of professors who were members of minority groups. [52] She worked for the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, assisting low-income tenants with housing cases. [53] She is the third first lady with a postgraduate degree, after her two immediate predecessors, Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush. [54] She later said her education gave her opportunities beyond what she had ever imagined. [55]

Family life

Michelle's mother Marian Robinson, was a stay-at-home mom. [56] Her father was Fraser C. Robinson III, who worked at the city's water purification plant. [56] Robinson's father, Fraser, died from complications from his illness in March 1991. [57] She would later say that although he was the "hole in my heart" and "loss in my scar", the memory of her father has motivated her each day since. [42] Her friend Suzanne Alele died from cancer around this time as well. These losses made her think of her contributions toward society and how well she was influencing the world from her law firm, in her first job after law school. She considered this a turning point. [58]

Robinson met Barack Obama when they were among the few African Americans at their law firm, Sidley Austin LLP (she has sometimes said only two, although others have noted that there were others in different departments). [59] She was assigned to mentor him while he was a summer associate. [60] Their relationship started with a business lunch and then a community organization meeting where he first impressed her. [61]

Before meeting Obama, Michelle had told her mother she intended to focus solely on her career. [62] The couple's first date was to Spike Lee's movie Do the Right Thing (1989). [63] Barack Obama has said the couple had an "opposites attract" scenario in their initial interest in each other, since Michelle had stability from her two-parent home while he was "adventurous". [64] They married on October 3, 1992. [61] After suffering a miscarriage, Michelle underwent in vitro fertilisation [65] to conceive their daughters Malia Ann (born 1998) and Natasha (known as Sasha, born 2001). [66]

The Obama family lived on Chicago's South Side, where Barack taught at the University of Chicago Law School. He was elected to the state senate in 1996, and to the US Senate in 2004. They chose to keep their residence in Chicago after Barack's election rather than to move to Washington, DC, as they felt it was better for their daughters. Throughout her husband's 2008 campaign for US President, Michelle Obama made a "commitment to be away overnight only once a week – to campaign only two days a week and be home by the end of the second day" for their two daughters. [67]

She once requested that her then-fiancé meet her prospective boss, Valerie Jarrett, when considering her first career move [21] Jarrett became one of her husband's closest advisors. [68] [69] The marital relationship has had its ebbs and flows the combination of an evolving family life and beginning political career led to many arguments about balancing work and family. Barack Obama wrote in his second book, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream, that "Tired and stressed, we had little time for conversation, much less romance." [70] Despite their family obligations and careers, they continued to try to schedule "date nights" while they lived in Chicago. [71]

The Obamas' daughters attended the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, a private school. [72] As a member of the school's board, Michelle fought to maintain diversity in the school when other board members connected with the University of Chicago tried to reserve more slots for children of the university faculty. This resulted in a plan to expand the school to increase enrollment. [7] In Washington, DC, Malia and Sasha attended Sidwell Friends School, after also considering Georgetown Day School. [73] [74] In 2008 Michelle said in an interview on The Ellen DeGeneres Show that they did not intend to have any more children. [75] The Obamas received advice from past first ladies Laura Bush, Rosalynn Carter and Hillary Clinton about raising children in the White House. [74] Marian Robinson, Michelle's mother, moved into the White House to assist with child care. [76]


Michelle Obama was raised United Methodist and joined the Trinity United Church of Christ, a mostly black congregation of the Reformed denomination known as the United Church of Christ. She and Barack Obama were married there by Rev. Jeremiah Wright. On May 31, 2008, Barack and Michelle Obama announced that they had withdrawn their membership in Trinity United Church of Christ saying: "Our relations with Trinity have been strained by the divisive statements of Reverend Wright, which sharply conflict with our own views." [77]

The Obama family attended several different Protestant churches after moving to Washington D.C. in 2009, including Shiloh Baptist Church and St. John's Episcopal Church on Lafayette Square, known as the Presidents' Church. At the 49th African Methodist Episcopal Church's general conference, Michelle Obama encouraged the attendees to advocate for political awareness, saying, "To anyone who says that church is no place to talk about these issues, you tell them there is no place better – no place better, because ultimately, these are not just political issues – they are moral issues, they're issues that have to do with human dignity and human potential, and the future we want for our kids and our grandkids." [78]

Following law school, Obama became an associate at the Chicago office of the law firm Sidley & Austin, where she met her future husband Barack. At the firm, she worked on marketing and intellectual property law. [6] She continues to hold her law license, but as she no longer needs it for her work, she has kept it on a voluntary inactive status since 1993. [79] [80]

In 1991, she held public sector positions in the Chicago city government as an Assistant to the Mayor, and as Assistant Commissioner of Planning and Development. In 1993, she became Executive Director for the Chicago office of Public Allies, a non-profit organization encouraging young people to work on social issues in nonprofit groups and government agencies. [28] She worked there nearly four years and set fundraising records for the organization that still stood twelve years after she had left. [22] Obama later said she had never been happier in her life prior to working "to build Public Allies". [81]

In 1996, Obama served as the Associate Dean of Student Services at the University of Chicago, where she developed the University's Community Service Center. [82] In 2002, she began working for the University of Chicago Hospitals, first as executive director for community affairs and, beginning May 2005, as Vice President for Community and External Affairs. [83]

She continued to hold the University of Chicago Hospitals position during the primary campaign of 2008, but cut back to part-time in order to spend time with her daughters as well as work for her husband's election. [84] She subsequently took a leave of absence from her job. [85]

According to the couple's 2006 income tax return, her salary was $273,618 from the University of Chicago Hospitals, while her husband had a salary of $157,082 from the United States Senate. The Obamas' total income was $991,296, which included $51,200 she earned as a member of the board of directors of TreeHouse Foods, and investments and royalties from his books. [86]

Obama served as a salaried board member of TreeHouse Foods, Inc. (NYSE: THS), [87] a major Wal-Mart supplier from shortly after her husband was seated in the Senate until she cut ties shortly after her husband announced his candidacy for the presidency he criticized Wal-Mart labor policies at an AFL-CIO forum in Trenton, New Jersey, on May 14, 2007. [88] She also served on the board of directors of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. [89]

In 2021, the former first lady announced that she has been "moving toward retirement". [90] Though she continues to be active in political campaigns, the former first lady has said she is reducing the amount of work to spend more time with her husband. [90]

Early campaigns

During an interview in 1996, Michelle Obama acknowledged there was a "strong possibility" her husband would begin a political career, but said she was "wary" of the process. She knew it meant their lives would be subject to scrutiny and she was intensely private. [91]

Although she campaigned on her husband's behalf since early in his political career by handshaking and fund-raising, she did not relish the activity at first. When she campaigned during her husband's 2000 run for United States House of Representatives, her boss at the University of Chicago asked if there was any single thing about campaigning that she enjoyed after some thought, she replied that visiting so many living rooms had given her some new decorating ideas. [92] [93] Obama opposed her husband's run for the congressional seat, and, after his defeat, she preferred he tend to the financial needs of the family in what she deemed a more practical way. [94]

2008 presidential campaign

At first, Obama had reservations about her husband's presidential campaign, due to fears about a possible negative effect on their daughters. [95] She says she negotiated an agreement in which her husband was to quit smoking in exchange for her support of his decision to run. [96] About her role in her husband's presidential campaign she has said: "My job is not a senior adviser". [68] [97] [98] During the campaign, she discussed race and education by using motherhood as a framework. [46]

In May 2007, three months after her husband declared his presidential candidacy, Obama reduced her professional responsibilities by 80 percent to support his presidential campaign. [21] Early in the campaign, she had limited involvement in which she traveled to political events only two days a week and rarely traveled overnight [99] by early February 2008 her participation had increased significantly. She attended thirty-three events in eight days. [69] She made several campaign appearances with Oprah Winfrey. [100] [101] She wrote her own stump speeches for her husband's presidential campaign and generally spoke without notes. [29]

During the campaign, columnist Cal Thomas on Fox News described Michelle Obama as an "Angry Black Woman" [102] [103] [104] and some web sites attempted to promote this image. [105] Obama said: "Barack and I have been in the public eye for many years now, and we've developed a thick skin along the way. When you're out campaigning, there will always be criticism. I just take it in stride, and at the end of the day, I know that it comes with the territory." [106]

By the time of the 2008 Democratic National Convention in August, media outlets observed that her presence on the campaign trail had grown softer than at the start of the race, focusing on soliciting concerns and empathizing with the audience rather than throwing down challenges to them, and giving interviews to shows such as The View and publications like Ladies' Home Journal rather than appearing on news programs. The change was reflected in her fashion choices, as she wore clothes that were more informal clothes than her earlier designer pieces. [92] Partly intended to help soften her public image, [102] her appearance on The View was widely covered in the press. [107]

The presidential campaign was Obama's first exposure to the national political scene she was considered the least famous of the candidates' spouses. [97] Early in the campaign, she told anecdotes about Obama family life however, as the press began to emphasize her sarcasm, she toned it down. [86] [96]

New York Times op-ed columnist Maureen Dowd wrote:

I wince a bit when Michelle Obama chides her husband as a mere mortal – a comic routine that rests on the presumption that we see him as a god . But it may not be smart politics to mock him in a way that turns him from the glam JFK into the mundane Gerald Ford, toasting his own English muffin. If all Senator Obama is peddling is the Camelot mystique, why debunk this mystique? [97] [108]

On the first night of the 2008 Democratic National Convention, Craig Robinson introduced his younger sister. [109] She delivered her speech, during which she sought to portray herself and her family as the embodiment of the American Dream. [110] Obama said she and her husband believe "that you work hard for what you want in life, that your word is your bond, and you do what you say you're going to do, that you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don't know them, and even if you don't agree with them." [111] She also emphasized loving her country, likely responding to criticism for having said that she felt "proud of her country for the first time". [110] [112] [113] The first statement was seen as a gaffe. [114] Her keynote address was largely well-received and drew mostly positive reviews. [115] A Rasmussen Reports poll found that her favorability among Americans reached 55%, the highest for her. [116]

On an October 6, 2008 broadcast, Larry King asked Obama if the American electorate was past the Bradley effect. She said her husband's winning the nomination was a fairly strong indicator that it was. [117] The same night she was interviewed by Jon Stewart on The Daily Show, where she deflected criticism of her husband and his campaign. [118] On Fox News' America's Pulse, E. D. Hill referred to the fist bump shared by the Obamas the night he clinched the Democratic presidential nomination, describing it as a "terrorist fist jab". Hill was taken off air and the show was cancelled. [119] [120]

2012 presidential re-election campaign

Obama campaigned for her husband's re-election in 2012. Beginning in 2011, Obama became more politically active than she had been since the 2008 election, though avoided discussions about the re-election bid. [121] By the time of the election cycle, she had developed a more open public image. [122] [123] Some commentators viewed her as the most popular member of the Obama administration, [124] noting that her poll approval numbers had not dropped below 60% since she entered the White House. [125] An Obama senior campaign official said she was "the most popular political figure in America". [126] The positive assessment was reasoned to have contributed to her active role in the re-election campaign, but it was noted that the challenge for the Obama campaign was to use her without tarnishing her popularity.

Obama was considered a polarizing figure, having aroused both "sharp enmity and deep loyalty" from Americans, but she was also seen as having improved her image since 2008 when her husband first ran for the presidency. [124] Isabel Wilkinson of The Daily Beast said Obama's fashion style changed over the course of the campaign to be sensitive and economical. [127]

Prior to the first debate of the election cycle, Obama expressed confidence in her husband's debating skills. [128] He was later criticized for appearing detached and for looking down when addressing Romney. [129] [130] Consensus among uncommitted voters was that the latter had won the debate. [131] After Obama's speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, the first lady was found through a CBS News/New York Times poll conducted in September to have a 61% favorably rating with registered voters, the highest percentage she had polled since April 2009. [132]

Obama aimed to humanize her husband by relating stories about him, attempting to appeal to female voters in swing states. Paul Harris of The Guardian said the same tactic was being used by Ann Romney, wife of 2012 Republican candidate Mitt Romney. Polls in October showed their husbands tied at 47% for the female vote. However, Michelle Obama's favorability ratings remained higher than Ann Romney's at 69% to 52%. [133] Despite Obama's higher poll numbers, comparisons between Obama and Romney were repeatedly made by the media until the election. [134] [135] But, as Michelle Cottle of Newsweek wrote, ". nobody votes for first lady." [136]

During her early months as First Lady, Obama visited homeless shelters and soup kitchens. [137] She also sent representatives to schools and advocated public service. [137] [138]

Obama advocated for her husband's policy priorities by promoting bills that support it. She hosted a White House reception for women's rights advocates in celebration of the enactment of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 Pay equity law. She supported the economic stimulus bill in visits to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development and United States Department of Education. Some observers looked favorably upon her legislative activities, while others said she should be less involved in politics. According to her representatives, she intended to visit all United States Cabinet-level agencies in order to get acquainted with Washington. [139]

On June 5, 2009, the White House announced that Michelle Obama was replacing her then chief of staff, Jackie Norris, with Susan Sher, a longtime friend and adviser. Norris became a senior adviser to the Corporation for National and Community Service. [140] Another key aide, Spelman College alumna Kristen Jarvis, served from 2008 until 2015, when she left to become chief of staff to the Ford Foundation president Darren Walker.

In 2009, Obama was named Barbara Walters' Most Fascinating Person of the year. [141] In her memoir, Becoming, Obama describes her four primary initiatives as First Lady: Let's Move!, Reach Higher, [142] Let Girls Learn, [143] and Joining Forces. [144] Some initiatives of First Lady Michelle Obama included advocating on behalf of military families, helping working women balance career and family, encouraging national service, and promoting the arts and arts education. [145] [146] Obama made supporting military families and spouses a personal mission and increasingly bonded with military families. According to her aides, stories of the sacrifice these families make moved her to tears. [146] In April 2012, Obama and her husband were awarded the Jerald Washington Memorial Founders' Award by the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV). The award is the highest honor given to homeless veteran advocates. [147] Obama was again honored with the award in May 2015, accepting with Jill Biden. [148]

In November 2013, a Politico article by Michelle Cottle accusing Obama of being a "feminist nightmare" for not using her position and education to advocate for women's issues was sharply criticized across the political spectrum. [149] [150] [151] Cottle quoted Linda Hirshman saying of Obama's trendy styles, promotion of gardening and healthy eating, and support of military families that "She essentially became the English lady of the manor, Tory Party, circa 1830s." [149] A prominent critic of Cottle was MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry, who rhetorically asked "Are you serious?" [150] [151] Supporters of Obama note that the first lady had been one of the only people in the administration to address obesity, through promoting good eating habits, which is one of the leading U.S. public health crises. [152]

In May 2014, Obama joined the campaign to bring back school girls who had been kidnapped in Nigeria. The first lady tweeted a picture of herself holding a poster with the #bringbackourgirls campaign hashtag. [153] Obama writes in her book about enlisting help for her initiative Let Girls Learn to produce and sing the song "This is for My Girls". [154]

Over the course of the Obama presidency, particularly during the second term, Michelle Obama was subject to speculation over whether she would run for the presidency herself, similarly to predecessor Hillary Clinton. [155] A May 2015 Rasmussen poll found Obama had 22% of support to Clinton's 56% of winning the Democratic nomination, higher than that of potential candidates Elizabeth Warren, Martin O'Malley and Bernie Sanders. [156] [157] Another poll that month found that 71% of Americans believed Obama should not run for the presidency, only 14% approving. [157] On January 14, 2016, during a town-hall meeting, President Obama was asked if the first lady could be talked into running. He responded, "There are three things that are certain in life: death, taxes, and Michelle is not running for president. That I can tell you." [158] [159] On March 16, 2016, while speaking in Austin, Texas, Obama denied that she would ever run for the office, citing a desire to "impact as many people as possible in an unbiased way". [160] In the epilogue to Becoming, Obama writes, "I have no intention of running for office, ever," [161] recognizing that "politics can be a means for positive change, but this arena is just not for me." [162]

Let's Move!

Obama's predecessors Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush supported the organic movement by instructing the White House kitchens to buy organic food. Obama extended their support of healthy eating by planting the White House Kitchen Garden, an organic garden, the first White House vegetable garden since Eleanor Roosevelt served as First Lady. She also had bee hives installed on the South Lawn of the White House. The garden supplied organic produce and honey for the meals of the First Family and for state dinners and other official gatherings. [163] [164] [165] [166]

In January 2010, Obama undertook her first lead role in an administration-wide initiative, which she named "Let's Move!", to make progress in reversing the 21st-century trend of childhood obesity. [165] [167] On February 9, 2010, the first lady announced Let's Move! and President Barack Obama created the Task Force on Childhood Obesity to review all current programs and create a national plan for change. [168]

Michelle Obama said her goal was to make this effort her legacy: "I want to leave something behind that we can say, 'Because of this time that this person spent here, this thing has changed.' And my hope is that that's going to be in the area of childhood obesity." [165] Her 2012 book American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America is based on her experiences with the garden and promotes healthy eating. [169] Her call for action on healthy eating was repeated by the United States Department of Defense, which has been facing an ever-expanding problem of obesity among recruits. [170]

Several Republicans have critiqued or lampooned Obama's initiative. In October 2014, senator Rand Paul linked to Michelle Obama's Twitter account when announcing on the website that he was going to Dunkin' Donuts. [171] In January 2016, Chris Christie, Republican Governor of New Jersey and presidential candidate, criticized the first lady's involvement with healthy eating while he was campaigning in Iowa, arguing that she was using the government to exercise her views on eating. [172] [173] Obama had previously cited Christie as an example of an adult who struggled with obesity, a demographic she sought to diminish by targeting children since Let's Move! was "working with kids when they're young, so that they don't have these direct challenges when they get older." [174] In February, Senator Ted Cruz said he would end Obama's health policies and return french fries to school cafeterias if his wife was First Lady. [175]

LGBT rights

In the 2008 US presidential campaign, Obama boasted to gay Democratic groups of her husband's record on LGBT rights: his support of the Illinois Human Rights Act, the Illinois gender violence act, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell, and full repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, civil unions along with hate crimes protection for sexual orientation and gender identity and renewed effort to fight HIV and AIDS. They have both opposed amendments proposed to ban same-sex marriage in the federal, California, and Florida constitutions. She said the US Supreme Court delivered justice in the Lawrence v. Texas case and drew a connection between the struggles for gay rights and civil rights by saying, "We are all only here because of those who marched and bled and died, from Selma to Stonewall, in the pursuit of a more perfect union." [176] [177] [178]

After the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell on September 20, 2011, Obama included openly gay service members in her national military families initiative. [179] On May 9, 2012, Barack and Michelle Obama came out publicly in favor of same-sex marriage. Prior to this, Michelle Obama had never publicly stated her position on this issue. Senior White House officials said Michelle Obama and Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett had been the two most consistent advocates for same-sex marriage in Barack Obama's life. [180] Michelle said:

This is an important issue for millions of Americans, and for Barack and me, it really comes down to the values of fairness and equality we want to pass down to our girls. These are basic values that kids learn at a very young age and that we encourage them to apply in all areas of their lives. And in a country where we teach our children that everyone is equal under the law, discriminating against same-sex couples just isn't right. It's as simple as that. [181]

At the 2012 DNC, Michelle said, "Barack knows the American Dream because he's lived it . and he wants everyone in this country to have that same opportunity, no matter who we are, or where we're from, or what we look like, or who we love." [182]

Domestic travels

In May 2009, Obama delivered the commencement speech at a graduating ceremony at UC Merced in Merced County, California, the address being praised afterward by students who found her relatable. Kevin Fagan of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote that there was chemistry between Obama and the students. [183]

In August 2013, Obama attended the 50th anniversary ceremony for the March on Washington at the Lincoln Memorial. Positive attention was brought to Obama's attire, a black sleeveless dress with red flowers, designed by Tracy Reese. [184] [185] Reese reacted by releasing a public statement that she was honored the first lady "would choose to wear one of our designs during the celebration of such a deeply significant historical moment". [186] [187]

In March 2015, Obama traveled to Selma, Alabama, with her family to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery marches. [188] After President Obama's remarks there, the Obamas joined original marchers, including John Lewis, in crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge. [189] [190]

In July 2015, Obama journeyed to Coachella Valley while coming to Los Angeles for that year's Special Olympics World Games. [191]

In October 2015, Obama was joined by Jill Biden and Prince Harry in visiting a military base in Fort Belvoir, Virginia, in an attempt on the prince's part to raise awareness to programs supporting harmed service members. [192] In December 2015, Obama traveled with her husband to San Bernardino, California, to meet with families of the victims of a terrorist attack that occurred two weeks earlier. [193]

Foreign trips

On April 1, 2009, Obama met with Queen Elizabeth II in Buckingham Palace, Obama embracing her before attending an event with world leaders. [194] Obama praised her, though the hug generated controversy for being out of protocol when greeting Elizabeth. [195] [196]

In April 2010, Obama traveled to Mexico, her first solo visit to a nation. [197] In Mexico, Obama spoke to students, encouraging them to take responsibility for their futures. [198] [199] Referring to the underprivileged children, Obama argued that "potential can be found in some of the most unlikely places," citing herself and her husband as examples. [200] [201]

Obama traveled to Africa for the second official trip in June 2011, touring Johannesburg, Cape Town and Botswana and meeting with Graça Machel. Obama was also involved with community events in the foreign countries. [202] It was commented by White House staff that her trip to Africa would advance the foreign policy of her husband. [203] [204]

In March 2014, Obama visited China along with her two daughters Malia and Sasha, and her mother Marian Robinson. She met with Peng Liyuan, the wife of Chinese president Xi Jinping, visited historic and cultural sites, as well as a university and two high schools. [205] [206] Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said the visit and intent in Obama journeying there was to symbolize "the relationship between the United States and China is not just between leaders, it's a relationship between peoples." [207] [208]

In January 2015, Obama traveled to Saudi Arabia alongside her husband, following the death of King Abdullah. She received criticism for not covering her head in a nation where women are forbidden from publicly not doing so, [209] [210] though Obama was defended for being a foreigner and thus not having to submit to Saudi Arabia's customs, [211] even being praised in some corners. [212] Obama was neither greeted nor acknowledged by King Salman during the encounter. [213]

In June 2015, Obama undertook a weeklong trip to London and three Italian cities. In London, she spoke with students about international education for adolescent girls and met with both British prime minister David Cameron and Prince Harry. She was joined by her two daughters and mother. [214] In November, she spent a week in Qatar, her first official visit to the Middle East. She continued advancing her initiative for international education for women by speaking at the 2015 World Innovation Summit for Education for her "Let Girls Learn" initiative in Doha, Qatar and touring a school in Amman, Jordan, where she met with female students. [32] [215] [216] During the Qatar trip, Obama had intended to visit Jordan as well, but the trip was canceled due to weather conditions. In Jordan, Obama had intended to visit an Amman school, which had been constructed with assistance from U.S. funds. [217]

In March 2016, Obama accompanied her husband and children to Cuba in a trip that was seen by the administration as having the possibility of positively impacting relations between the country and America. [218] [219] Later that month, the first couple and their daughters traveled to Argentina, [220] meeting with Argentine president Mauricio Macri. [221] [222]

Midterm elections

Obama campaigned for Democratic candidates in the 2010 midterm elections, [223] [224] making her debut on the campaign trail in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. [225] [226] By the time she began campaigning, Obama's approval rating was 20 percentage points higher than her husband's. [227] Though Obama indicated in January 2010 that a consensus had not been made about whether she would campaign, [228] speculation of her involvement came from her large approval rating as well as reports that she had been invited to speak at events with Democrats such as Barbara Boxer, Mary Jo Kilroy and Joe Sestak. [229] She toured seven states in two weeks within October 2010. [230] Aides reported that, though viewed as essential by the White House, she would not become deeply involved with political discussions nor engage Republicans in public disputes. [231] After the elections, only six of the thirteen Democratic candidates Obama had campaigned for won. The Los Angeles Times concluded that while Obama was indeed more popular than her husband, her "election scorecard proved no better than his, particularly in her home state". [232]

Obama was a participant in the 2014 midterm elections, held at a time where her popularity superseded her husband's to such an extent that it was theorized she would receive a much larger outpour of support in campaigning. Reporting her travel to Denver, Colorado, David Lightman wrote that while Democrats did not want President Obama to campaign for them, "the first lady is very popular." [233] In May 2014, Obama was found to have a 61% favorable approval rating from a CNN poll, her husband coming in at 43%. [234] In a video released in July, as part of an effort to encourage voter turnout, she called on voters to be "hungry as you were back in 2008 and 2012". [235] Obama appeared at a fundraiser in Georgia in September for Democratic senate candidate Michelle Nunn. Obama's approach to campaigning in Georgia strayed from discussing current events and instead broadly stressed the importance of registering to vote and turning out during the elections. [234] Obama's infrequent appearances came from her dislike of being away from her children and Washington politics as well as her distaste for the opposition by Republicans to her husband's agenda and her view that Democrats in the U.S. Senate had not sufficiently been supporters of her initiatives to end childhood obesity. [236] Obama raised her profile in October, [237] [238] touring three states in four days. [236] Obama called the elections her husband's "last campaign". [239] [240]

Hillary Clinton 2016 presidential campaign

Obama endorsed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and made several high-profile speeches in favor of her, including an address at the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. [241] She also appeared multiple times on the campaign trail in either solo or joint appearances with Clinton. [242] On October 13, 2016, Obama heavily criticized Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump for the statements he made in a 2005 audio recording while at a Clinton rally in Manchester, New Hampshire. [243] A week later, Trump attempted to revive past comments Obama made in regards to Clinton during the 2008 presidential election. [244] [245]

Public image and style

With the ascent of her husband as a prominent national politician, Obama became a part of popular culture. In May 2006, Essence listed her among "25 of the World's Most Inspiring Women". [246] [247] In July 2007, Vanity Fair listed her among "10 of the World's Best Dressed People". She was an honorary guest at Oprah Winfrey's Legends Ball as a "young'un" paying tribute to the "Legends" who helped pave the way for African-American women. In September 2007, 02138 magazine listed her 58th of "The Harvard 100" a list of the prior year's most influential Harvard alumni. Her husband was ranked fourth. [246] [248] In July 2008, she made a repeat appearance on the Vanity Fair international best dressed list. [249] She also appeared on the 2008 People list of best-dressed women and was praised by the magazine for her "classic and confident" look. [250] [251]

At the time of her husband's election, some sources anticipated that as a high-profile African-American woman in a stable marriage Obama would be a positive role model who would influence the view the world has of African Americans. [252] [253] Her fashion choices were part of the 2009 Fashion week, [254] but Obama's influence in the field did not have the impact on the paucity of African-American models who participate, that some thought it might. [255] [256]

Obama's public support grew in her early months as First Lady, [137] [257] as she was accepted as a role model. [137] On her first trip abroad in April 2009, she toured a cancer ward with Sarah Brown, wife of British prime minister Gordon Brown. [258] Newsweek described her first trip abroad as an exhibition of her so-called "star power" [257] and MSN described it as a display of sartorial elegance. [247] Questions were raised by some in the American and British media regarding protocol when the Obamas met Queen Elizabeth II [259] and Michelle reciprocated a touch on her back by the Queen during a reception, purportedly against traditional royal etiquette. [259] [260] Palace sources denied that any breach in etiquette had occurred. [261]

Obama has been compared to Jacqueline Kennedy due to her sense of style, [249] and also to Barbara Bush for her discipline and decorum. [262] [263] Obama's style has been described as "fashion populist". [54] In 2010, she wore clothes, many high end, from more than fifty design companies with less expensive pieces from J.Crew and Target, and the same year a study found that her patronage was worth an average of $14 million to a company. [264] She became a fashion trendsetter, in particular favoring sleeveless dresses, including her first-term official portrait in a dress by Michael Kors, and her ball gowns designed by Jason Wu for both inaugurals. [265] She has also been known for wearing clothes by African designers such as Mimi Plange, Duro Olowu, Maki Oh, and Osei Duro, and styles such as the Adire fabric. [266] [267]

Obama appeared on the cover and in a photo spread in the March 2009 issue of Vogue. [268] [269] Every first lady since Lou Hoover (except Bess Truman) has been in Vogue, [268] but only Hillary Clinton had previously appeared on the cover. [270] Obama later appeared two more times on the cover of Vogue, while First Lady, the last time in December 2016, with photographs by Annie Leibovitz. [271] In August 2011, she became the first woman ever to appear on the cover of Better Homes and Gardens magazine, and the first person in 48 years. [272] In 2013, during the 85th Academy Awards, she became the first first lady to announce the winner of an Oscar (Best Picture which went to Argo). [273]

The media have been criticized for focusing more on the first lady's fashion sense than her serious contributions. [54] [274] She said after the 2008 election that she would like to focus attention as First Lady on issues of concern to military and working families. [252] [275] [276] In 2008 U.S. News & World Report blogger, PBS host and Scripps Howard columnist Bonnie Erbé argued that Obama's own publicists seemed to be feeding the emphasis on style over substance, [277] and said Obama was miscasting herself by overemphasizing style. [76] [278]

For three straight years – 2018, 2019, and 2020 – Obama topped the Gallup poll asking who is the "most admired woman" in the U.S. [279] [280]

Time magazine features an annual "Person of the Year" cover story in which Time recognizes the individual or group of individuals who have had the biggest impact on news headlines over the previous twelve months. In 2020 the magazine decided to retroactively choose a historically deserving woman for each year in which a man had been named Person of the Year, reflecting the fact that a woman or women had been named Person of the Year only eleven times in the preceding hundred. As part of this review, Michelle Obama was named the Woman of the Year for 2008. [281]

In May 2017, during an appearance at the Partnership for a Healthier America conference, Obama rebuked the Trump administration for its delay of a federal requirement designed to increase the nutritional standards for school lunches. [282] In June, while attending the WWDC in Silicon Valley, California, Obama called for tech companies to add women for the diversifying of their ranks. [283] In July, Obama honored Eunice Shriver at the 2017 ESPY Awards. [284] In September, Obama delivered an address at the tech conference in Utah charging the Trump administration with having a fearful White House, [285] appeared in a video for the Global Citizens Festival advocating more attention to giving young girls an education, [286] and attended the Inbound 2017 conference in Boston. [287] During an October 3 appearance at the Philadelphia Conference for Women, Obama cited a lack of diversity in politics with contributing to lawmakers being distrusted by other groups. [288] In November, Obama discussed gender disparity in attitudes with Elizabeth Alexander while attending the Obama Foundation Summit in Chicago, [289] and spoke at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford, Connecticut. [290]

In April 2018, Obama responded to speculation that she might be running for president by saying she has "never had the passion for politics" and that "there are millions of women who are inclined and do have the passion for politics." [291]

On January 2, 2021, Obama encouraged Georgia residents to vote in the state’s runoff in the U.S. Senate election and to contact VoteRiders, a non-profit voter ID education organization, to make sure they have the necessary ID to vote. [292]

On January 20, 2021, the Obamas attended the inauguration of Joe Biden. Michelle Obama wore a matching plum coat, sweater, pants, and belt designed by Sergio Hudson to the inauguration. [293]

In 2021, she was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame. [294]

Becoming, podcast and TV

Obama's memoir, Becoming, was released in November 2018. [295] By November 2019, it had sold 11.5 million copies. [296] A documentary titled Becoming, which chronicles Obama's book tour promoting the memoir, was released on Netflix on May 6, 2020. [297] [298]

In July 2020, she premiered a podcast titled The Michelle Obama Podcast. [299] [300]

In February 2021, Obama was announced as an executive producer and presenter on a children's cooking show, Waffles + Mochi. [301] It was released by Netflix on March 16, 2021. [302] [303]

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  570. "Michelle Obama: 'Any woman who voted against Hillary Clinton voted against their own voice ' ". CNN. September 27, 2017.
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  • Colbert, David (2008). Michelle Obama, An American Story. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN978-0-547-24770-0 .
  • Lightfoot, Elizabeth (2008). Michelle Obama: First Lady of Hope. The Lyons Press. ISBN978-1-59921-521-1 .
  • Mundy, Liza (2008). Michelle Obama, A Life. Simon & Schuster. ISBN978-1-4165-9943-2 .
  • Chambers, Veronica (2017). The Meaning of Michelle: 16 Writers on the Iconic First Lady and How Her Journey Inspires Our Own. St. Martin's Press. ISBN978-1-250-11496-9 .

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Feeding Houston's hungry: 1M pounds of food daily for needy

HOUSTON — (AP) — In car lines that can stretch half a mile, (0.8 kilometers), workers who lost jobs because of the coronavirus pandemic and other needy people receive staggering amounts of food distributed by the Houston Food Bank. On some days, the hundreds of sites supplied by the country's largest food bank collectively get 1 million pounds.

Among the ranks of recipients is unemployed construction worker Herman Henton, whose wife is a home improvement store worker and now the sole breadwinner for their family of five. They tried to get food stamps but were told they only qualified for $25 of federal food assistance monthly.

“As a man, as a father, as a provider I felt at a low point. I felt low," Henton said as he waited in his car near West Houston Assistance Ministries, which gets food from the Houston Food Bank for its care packages aimed at helping feed families for a week. "In this type of situation there’s nothing you can really do.”

Distributions by the Houston Food Bank now average about 800,000 pounds (363,000 kilograms) daily after reaching the unprecedented 1 million pound mark for the first time in the spring, a level that the organization still delivers periodically.

Before the coronavirus struck, the group's average daily distribution was 450,000 pounds (184,000 kilograms), said Houston Food Bank President Brian Greene.

Then workers in Houston and millions around the country were suddenly thrown out of work and forced to rely on the handouts.

“It had that feeling of a disaster, like the hurricanes in the Gulf,” Greene recalled. “It was shocking how the lines exploded so quickly.”

Almost overnight, one of America's most ethnically and racially diverse cities became a symbol of a desperate need as the food bank scrambled to take in enough milk, bread, vegetables and meat from multiple sources to feed the hungry.

Many people in Houston and around the U.S. live paycheck to paycheck and were caught off guard by the economic fallout from the coronavirus that initially cost the nation 22 million jobs, with10.7 million that haven't come back.

"Forty percent of households have less than $400 in order to weather a storm,” Greene said, referring to a Federal Reserve survey. “So, when this crisis hit the number of families who needed assistance was immediate and very large.”

After Henton was laid off, he and his wife ate one meal daily so their three children could have all three.

His family is one of about 126,500 that the Houston Food Bank has helped with boxes of food every week since March via its system powered by workers and volunteers who sort, box and pack the food onto trucks that deliver their loads to distribution centers throughout greater Houston's suburban sprawl.

Nationwide, the charitable food distribution "surge has stayed at a surge level,” said Katie Fitzgerald, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Feeding America, a national network of 200 food banks.

Her group boosted the amount of food it distributes to 2 billion pounds (907 million kilograms) from April through June, up from 1.3 billion pounds (590 million kilograms) during the January-March period.

The federal government has helped meet demand with programs such as one that buys farm goods like vegetables, meat and dairy originally produced for now shuttered restaurants and gives it free to food banks and the distribution groups they work with.

But the money set aside for the U.S. Agriculture Department's multibillion-dollar Farmers to Families program runs out at the end of October.

Individual food banks also get 20% to 40% of the food they distribute from other government programs, including one that helps farmers hurt by foreign tariffs by buying their produce, beef, pork and chicken and ensuring that producers get paid while edible food doesn't end up in landfills. That program is funded so far through 2020.

The food banks get the rest of what they distribute from supermarket or farmer donations or buy it with donated cash.

Fitzgerald said the nation's food banks have enough food to meet U.S. demand for now, but said distributors “are concerned about the future” as winter approaches.

Demand for food in the Houston area, long subjected to the volatility of the oil industry, will probably continue without more government relief for jobless workers, said Mark Brown, CEO of West Houston Assistance Ministries, which gives food to nearly 2,000 people each week.

“I think we will have an elevated need in our community for at least two years,” he said.

The charity was founded in 1982 to help people during an oil bust that eliminated 225,000 jobs and toppled the city's real estate market. The group also helps people pay their rent and find work.

On one recent food distribution day, many people waiting in their cars with the tailgates open so bags could be easily loaded in their vehicles in a socially distant way were reluctant to speak about their economic misfortunes or other reasons for lining up.

Unemployed stagehand Priscilla Toro said she was embarrassed at having to resort to the free food line but added: “We have to get by. We’ve got to eat.”

Henton said he was simply thankful that he and many others can feed their families with the extra help.

“It can happen to anyone,” he said.

Snow reported from Phoenix.

On Twitter:,

© 2020 Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

Frequently bought together

Her 'little problem'

Melania Trump fell victim to her husband's foot-in-mouth disease at an event honoring Gold Star families on June 5, 2018. According to Daily Caller reporter Jena Greene, the president had this to say: "Melania had a little problem a couple weeks ago but she wouldn't miss this for anything." Awkward much? What the heck is Melania's "little problem" in reference to?

Although it's likely Donald was alluding to her aforementioned kidney surgery, others speculated that there was something more sinister about his remark. "Her little problem is him," one person tweeted. "That sounds utterly chilling, like he's warning her whatever 'problem' she had is going to happen again," another commenter theorized. Yikes! The Donald likely meant no harm, but his uncomfortable comment fueled even more concern for Melania's well-being.

Michelle: School Lunches Might Get Delicious!

The government is attempting to come to the rescue of starving children shunning their healthier new school lunches. In remarks at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Friday, First Lady Michelle Obama revealed that the bureaucracy is churning up some new recipes.

The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, I believe that that legislation is truly one of the greatest legacies that we can leave our children. Because of this Act . . . 32 million American children are getting more of the nutrition they need to learn and grow and be successful. And I do hope that it’s delicious. We’re working on that, yes indeed.

Since the new food guidelines were implemented, there have been widespread stories suggesting tons of broccoli, carrots and asparagus are being dumped in trash cans throughout the nation as kids choose empty stomachs over ones filled with food they don’t like. Other students are forcing themselves to eat lunch but find they lack energy later in the day because the portions aren’t big enough or don’t have enough calories.

I’m not sure, though, how this stuff is going to get tastier without becoming less healthy. There are two ways I know of to make things taste better:

Both of these substances are well known contributors to rounded waistlines.

Good luck Michelle. I do admire that you are trying to get our children to eat better. Many of them these days are . . . well, how else to say it?

But once you start creating mandates and throwing federal one-size-fits-all government solutions at the problem, things can only get worse, even if the intentions are good.

Somebody, please, help these poor children.

139 thoughts on &ldquoMichelle: School Lunches Might Get Delicious!&rdquo

First, I don’t admire ANYTHING that woman does. Maybe that’s simplistic, but I don’t–she frosts my cahooties. Second, if these kids don’t want to eat, then feel crummy. Yes, the veggies may be wasted. I think school systems should provide a decent number of choices–and not all potato chips and grease, either. Bring from home if you don’t like the grub. Also, studies are showing that having recess before lunch in the elementary grades increases appetite and decreases “the sillies” in class after lunch.

I can’t find the link, but I’ve read of school districts that monitor food students bring from home. I recall one incident in which the school threw out one kid’s lunch and forced her/him to eat the school’s food which happened to be less healthy than the original food.

North Carolina, Mandy. My nanny state. It was a preschoolers lunch.

Was it in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill region?

“Bring from home if you don’t like the grub. ” – Star

Ah, but are you SURE the State will let you do THAT? (The following is sarcasm!) They’re SO much better than you at making food choices for your children…(sarc off)

“A preschool girl was told her homemade meal wasn’t healthy enough – so a school cafeteria monitor made her eat chicken nuggets instead.

The rejected meal consisted of a turkey and cheese sandwich on whole wheat bread, with a side of a banana, potato chips, and apple juice.”

“On top of the wasted food that was sent home with the little girl at the end of the day was a $1.25 bill for the ‘healthy’ school lunch.”

“Socialists think of society as a giant, sticky wad. And no part of that gum ball–no intimate detail of your private life, for instance–can be pulled free from the purview of socialism. Witness Sweden’s Minister for Consumer, Religious, Youth and Sports Affairs. Socialism is inherently totalitarian in philosophy.” – P.J. O’Rourke

I like the way he puts that. Nothing CAN be pulled free from their control. Not even your child’s lunch…

That’s the story I was posting about.

What does that story prove? I read it at the time. Some schools require kids to bring lunch. What are you saying would be good–return to the burgers, fries, pizza routine, close salad bars, cut choices?

What WOULD be good would be if the Federal Government were to get on with performing it’s Constitutional duties, guarding borders, national defense, stuff like that – and got OUT of the lunchroom.

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
-U.S. Constitution, 10th Amendment

There is very little in the Constitution about greens. It doesn’t matter if school lunches are good or bad – at the FEDERAL level. The states, locals, or, maybe – just MAYBE – THE PARENTS should make these decisions.

Honestly, we got INTO this fix because everyone wants it to be a FEDERAL crime when someone does something they don’t like, or doesn’t feed their kids as they think they ought. I think the FEDERAL governemt has ENOUGH on it’s plate WITHOUT TELLING US HOW TO FEED OUR OWN KIDS.

Whew! Rant over, sorry – again – Star, but I needed that.

Probably will a few MORE times, since the O’s will be around awhile longer…

The states, locals, or, maybe – just MAYBE – THE PARENTS should make these decisions.

We have scads of obese children at our local schools, so I don’t know if I’d put it solely in their parents’ hands. I don’t know how these kids have become obese because I’d estimate that more than 80 percent come from homes fed by SNAP.

Always keep Government in the smallest possible unit.

If you let them take away the rights of parents, be aware that they can take away yours as well.

If you REALLY want to use the power of Government to cure obesity, limit SNAP card/direction card/ whatever ELSE they call food stamp cards from purchasing crap foods.

That would go a LONG way, and limits something that ISN’T a right….

I’m a parent, and I guard my child’s and my freedom closely, which is one of the reasons he goes to a private, Christian school. It’s a huge chunk of change, and I have to drive 400 miles a week, but it’s worth every cent and mile.

About SNAP cards, the government should stop allowing them to be used to purchase anything but things allowed under the WIC program. I about fainted when I saw our local Dominoes’ sign advertising SNAP for take-out pizzas.

After a few yrs in the DC schools, I transferred my kid to parochial school–no hot lunch. She “brought.” We had tons of those insulated bags under the sink, I saw one day. I used make her little salads with her favorite ranch in a plastic tub. The other day (she’s 31 now) I said did you like those salads? “Those? Traded them,” she said.

Mandy: It doesn’t matter. We can encourage parents to cook healthy, but it is no one’s business…not yours or Michelle’s…to control what they eat.
Can we just each the 3 R’s and get out of this other crap?
One theory: If moms weren’t working to pay taxes they could stay home and have time and money to cook good meals…go figger.

Nowadays, mothers work outside the home for reasons other than paying taxes.

I would like to say that we’re dealing with the effects of a recent shift in society, but women have worked outside the home for a long, long time, pre-dating Betty Friedan and her cohort by more than a century.

As long as obese children are living in their parents’ homes, they’ll have access to the unhealthy food and large portions that made them that way. Are you prepared for government to mandate what must be served at home too? This is getting out of hand.

agreed. with all the actual problems in the country, why on earth is the federal gov’t messing in schools.
What happened to local authority?
Doesn’t the Ag department have enough to do building their food stamp empire?

I don’t know how you’re getting that from what I wrote. The kid in question had a good lunch taken away, and was given a less healthy meal.

I’m all for schools providing healthy food, but if kids aren’t eating the food, they’re going hungry and we’re wasting our money.

If–and that’s a big if–the federal government involves itself in an area not sanctioned by the Constitution, why should it impose a one-size-fits-all standard?

Gee. Maybe that’s why some things should be left up to the states, and in this case, the local schools.

Agree it should not be federal. Let the parents you think will have so much say go to the schools and do it–but the old lunches were the cheapest crap imaginable or affordable and probably could have used a fluff-up. I u sed to eat at my kid’s school once in a while to check…The First Lady certainly did not need to be involved. But she is now–though the locals will do the work and effect change.

As for fat, there is nothing wrong with it in moderation. It’s a source of long term energy which school children need to get them through the end of the day and post school activities. Of course there are good fats and not-so fats. Maybe kids think avocados are yucky, but I love them.

One final comment: modest, isn’t she? “Truly one of greatest legacies we can leave our children.” That’s the real message here. SHE thinks she is leaving a legacy too, and btw, it is a ‘great’ one.

Who elected her? I don’t recall her name on any ballot in either 2008 or last November.

“Who elected her?” – Mandy Manners

“Michelle: I am your king – eh, Queen.

Mandy: Well I didn’t vote for you.

Michelle: You don’t vote for queens.

Woman: Well how’d you become queen then?

Michelle: The Lady of the Lunch, her hair clad in the purest shimmering jute nettage held aloft The Ladle of Lardlessness from the bosom of the chili pot, signifying by divine providence that I, Michelle, was to carry The Ladle of Lardlessness. THAT is why I am your ki – Queen! Queen!. ”

(Apologies to Monty Python & The Holy Grail)

“Mandy Manners: Never, in my whole life, have I ever sworn allegiance to him, her, whatever.

Jay Carney: It matters not. “She” is your Queen.

It’s a dear leader thing. You and I are peasants, so we’re not expected to understand.

We ARE, however, expected to OBEY. That’s a drone circling overhead…

Now I’m having images of Michelle as a watery tart.

Hey, maybe Barack is the Queen!

My neighbor’s kid is fat, fat, fat. he comes home and plops in front of the video game console for HOURS and never goes outside.

My guess is that he is already 200 pounds and only 12.

The government food pyramid is a bunch of garbage!! Meats, good fats, vegetable, fruits. That’s real food….see Paelo!

Mustard makes broccoli much more palatable — and it’s good for you.

What happened to recess and phys Ed?

Have schools eliminated them in order to meet NLRB requirements?

Some schools have eliminated recess–this is not good, in my opinion. Others rearranged it in the day (see my comment above). Still others teach with motion–in math class, for instance, if your answer is 𔄚,” you jump two times…things like that.

When he was entering fifth grade, my son flipped out when he was told there’d be only one recess. But, he already was into Little League and junior varsity football. At his school, students must either be in a sport or take P.E. for four hours each week once they enter middle school.

I recall reading that they were discontinued in Chicago at one time, but I think they’ve been reinstated there.

The elementary school is about 120yds from my home and the children have recess every day, outside. Winter and summer.
But, I live in the suburbs where the school yard is grassy, not the inner city where crime is rampant, and the schoolyard is concrete.

PE in my state means making the kids walk around outside–PE teachers are not required and cost money (like art and music teachers have been cut).

1. All the adults in this video are overweight.
2. None of the children in the video are overweight.
3. American kids are the best.
4. Only in America can kids put out a video that mocks the FLOTUS’s “great legacy” as bunkum.

‘Waste’ lines? Ahem … that should be “waistlines.” Surprised nobody caught that.

Don’t get me wrong. Overall, it’s a great blog, and I agree with what you say. I’m just a nitpicky former journalist and that kind of stuff jumps out at me. Can’t help myself I have to correct. I know we all make mistakes.

Poor Georgia doesnt know snark when she reads it…..rather sad, really : (

Janna, I hate to say it, but it wasn’t snark, though it might have worked as such!

Well, you’re a rara avis, a nitpicky former journalist. I’m an old English major, and one of my hobbies is nitpicking the current journalists. It ain’t hard to do either.

Be gentle, Georgia–some of us have bad vision and over-eager typing fingers. We pretty much go for the gist.

If Michelle didn’t have an a$ the size of Rhode Island, she’d be a little more credible. She is a terrible human being.

You don’t have to be fat in order to have a big butt.

My sister and I are the same height. I weigh about 105 lbs., and wear between a 2P and 6P she weights about 130 lbs., and wears between a 10P and a 12P. She’s not fat–she’s extremely athletic but has a much bigger bone structure.

I really detest the lady, but you are right. I think it is genetic with her. Please, I’m not racist!! But I have noticed that many African Americans have rather high, muscular posteriors.

Some things are just what they are.

And, some like it that way.

All this shit I see about her jaw and her butt and her whatever.

Michelle Obama is a typical woman in the United States of America.

I didn’t know “typical” American women tried to force everyone else to eat things they don’t want to. I also didn’t know the “typical” American woman hates America.

I don’t either, Troy. In my opinion, Mooch more closely resembles a lumberjack in drag than she does a “typical” American woman. She also eats like a lumberjack and has worse table manners. She’s an ugly woman on the inside as well as the outside.

If Me-Chelle is a typical American woman, I fear for the United States.

You also–re the comment before yours–don’t have to have a small butt to know about nutrition. That is the kind of comment that, to me, adds little.

I mean the Rhode Island remark–I won’t even call it a joke.

You can have a big butt and not be fat, and know about how to eat healthful foods.

I am just sick of the “fat” drivebys on this woman–she has plenty of other flaws. It doesn’t add much, in my opinion. Usually it’s a man who gets off somehow on insulting a woman.

wonder how much this will cost us. I am sure it will.

By the way, school systems struggle with this, research it, try things, etc–with no nod to Michelle’s self-serving (like my pun?) little pronouncements whatsoever.

Here is one–there are MANY!

I also sort of smirk at that British guy Jamie Oliver blatting on about serving the kids risotto, etc. But if you throw enough asparagus at the wall, maybe some will stick.

Risotto? To hundreds of kid?

I was joking (I think)–but he is all over this lunch thing with fancy healthful recipes.

From what I’ve read, Oliver is a pretty polarizing individual.

I agree–why I smirk (see above). But my pt is that there are dozens of orgs and thousands of school districts all tinkering with this–and they have pretty stringent budgets, too, which cuts options. Michelle is late to the party and from what I see on this site today, her take on it is not the healthiest.

But, to hear it from her, she’s the first one ever to tackle it.

I’m wonder if she, too, is a narcissist.

Gosh. Can you imagine what it’s like to be raised by two narcissists?

I hope Marian Robinson is a good influence on Malia and Sasha.

You wonder if Mooch is a narcissist? I’d say there’s no doubt at all that she is. Not as far gone as Barry perhaps, but nonetheless, Mooch loves Mooch and thinks she should have the absolute best of everything because, well, she deserves it.

It’s amazing how these leftists operate. First of all, they take physical activity out of school because children might hurt themselves playing dodge ball or climbing the monkey bars. As a result, they have created a bunch of fearful fatties who spend their free time exercising their fingers on gamer consoles instead of competing with each other on the playground. Their solution to the lack of exercise is to starve the children by making their lunch menus bland and tasteless. How much more Orwellian can these Marxists get – “Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act”?

The parents must take responsibility as well. If they are allowing these Marxists to raise their children, it’s their fault. Our kids rarely ate the school lunches. Every school night before we went to bed they helped pack their own lunches under our supervision. They also were limited to the amount of time they spent in front of the television set each day, and neither one of them ever had a weight problem.

Time for parents to wake up and see what these Marxists are trying to do. They are attempting to wrestle control of the children from the parents so they can create good little mindless sheep who follow the dictates of the state without question. We need to fight against this collectivist cancer that is devouring our society and reclaim our public schools. Abolishing the Department of Education and getting rid of the teachers unions that suck the virtue and independence out of the principled teachers would be a good start.

We played outside as kids–ran the neighborhood like feral dogs until Mom screamed for dinner…She was a home ec major, served every health thing you can imagine–and I have been fat all my life. Go know. Again–not research, just an observation.

I’m with you Star. We ran around all day long…after work in the fields was over. And we didn’t have snacks. We had food. If you were hungry you cooked something or (heaven forbid the thought today) leftovers! School lunches were for special days and they were tasty. One possible outcome is these kids are getting a lesson in freedom. Maybe feminism has caught up and all these kids will have a problem with “The Mom” as opposed to “The Man”?

Knowing you are such a fan, there is still only one review on mooch-hells new app. Worth a read if you haven’t already: Michelle’s Style List by Style Lister

Thanks for thinking of me–I eat, breathe, and worship the Boss, as you know.

Have you ever seen your average vegan/vegetarian? While celebrity types are glowing, most of those who limit their food in such ways end up lethargic and open themselves to a variety of diseases. We have teeth for tearing meat as well as grinding grain because we are omnivores who can and should eat a wide range of foods. That is what allowed us to develop at the top of the food pyramid. One of the things totalitarian societies do is to limit food sources even when other foods are available. A passive population lacking in the energy to revolt is what every totalitarian desires.

Vegetarianism is the most unhealthy way to eat and they often get serious diseases. The body needs fat and meat!!

Extremism on either point of the scale is dangerous.

I agree–meat contains zinc, B vits, protein…some of this is hard to get from a plate of veggies.

How about we take the gluten out of everyone’s diet. It isn’t healthy for anyone and can become literally addictive.

Would you care to prove that? There’s no scientific evidence that gluten has any impact on health except for those who are allergic. This is similar to people who replace all sugar with substitutes ignoring the impact of those artificial chemicals on health.

Most people are not allergic to gluten or even have non-Celiac gluten allergies–this is a trendy way to eliminate the dreaded carbs, read bread.

I’m sure the people allergic to wheat or have gluten intolerance wish it were only trendy. Gluten or wheat can be found in more than bread, such as ice cream, “natural” flavors, hot dogs or soy sauce, etc.

If you made that suggestion to Nanny Bloomberg, he’d probably take you up on it.

Today’s gluten is not your grandma’s gluten, or wheat! There is nothing good in it…read Wheat Belly, read Paleo.
But gosh…eat what you want. Free country!

Gluten is a protein found in some grains…It’s trendy now to spurn it. But people get tired of eating no bread and finding gluten-free recipes and veer away from the diet–that is what studies show… But, sure, if you want to cu tout bread, you miss some fiber and vits, but it won’t kill you.

The only people who should avoid gluten are those with celiac disease. This whole “gluten free” trend is just that – a trend. Taking gluten out of baked goods gives them all the taste appeal of cardboard.

As a public school substitute in Central California, I see first hand the food served for breakfast and lunch at the elementary level. Yes, they do get fresh fruits and low fat milk but the rest is not cooked by the school district’s cafeterias, rather bought and at times comes in packaged. Then I see the kids throw away most of their food, sometimes partially consumed.

Many restaurants use prepared foods too nowadays. I didn’t realize just how much until I was diagnosed with soy allergy and have to inquire about their ingredients.

Michelle’s school lunch program is very flawed. For instance, it allows only 2 ounces more of protein per week for high school kids than a kindergartner, meaning a 17 year old football player is limited to 12 ounces of protein per week. Calorie wise, high school kids are limited to a max of 850 calories per lunch while kindergartners get 650 calories per day. High school kids are not getting enough calories to make it through the day, especially with sports. Kids can’t even have sandwiches anymore because of the regulations/restrictions. The meals are too many carbs, not enough protein. Some fat is necessary.

There’s a school in Chicago that does not allow kids to take lunches from home. And then there’s the incident already mentioned, about the child’s lunch from home being thrown out and the child being made to eat a school lunch instead.

The idea that someone without a degree in nutrition is trying to tell the country how to feed their children is ludicrous. Bring back PE and recess at the schools. Kid’s can’t play outdoors anymore because there’s a sex offender in every neighborhood. That’s why kids are fat, not to mention all the highly refined processed food they’re given at home and school.

Have never seen those numbers before. I am sure some did them for her. Way too low! Kids are growing–remember that…and not just in fatness.

I believe these numbers to be accurate as many other websites also reported this after kids started complaining about being hungry.

Don’t too many carbohyrates contribute to obesity?

In couch potatoes definitely. Kids would burn them up, active kids that is. My husband used to run marathons, and they recommended carbohydrates before the race. Carbohydrates are quick energy: they are are metabolized more quickly. Fats are long-term energy and take time to metabolize. Proteins are the building blocks, not a source of energy, but growing kids need lots of them.

I was wondering if the emphasis on carbohydrates and not protein and fats was a way to feed kids on the cheap. I’m all cutting costs, but kids need more protein that the small amounts theyr’e getting at school. especially if they don’t have decent food when they go home.

There I go again, putting the state in the parent’s place. However, there are many, many kids whose only solid food comes from schools. But, snot. That’s reality for many kids.

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Sustainable grub

As Americans, we rely on our government to provide accurate, science-based information, that promotes the health of our families and our environment.

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Feds okay GMO apple

Granny Smith apple at left, with GMO counterpart at right, after 8 hours

Believe it or not, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has given the go-ahead to grow the first genetically modified apples. And they will not be labeled GMO.

Never mind that 175,000 consumers who commented on the proposal were overwhelmingly opposed. And that industry executives are not exactly salivating for Arctic Apples, the GM brand developed by Okanagan Specialty Fruits, a Canadian company.

Developers say their GM apples will not turn brown as quickly as other apples when sliced or bruised. Consumer groups say that’s not exactly compelling. They argue that genetically modified crops are not thoroughly tested for safety, and there could be unintended consequences associated with growing or consuming them.

“This G.M.O. apple is simply unnecessary,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “The USDA has let down U.S. apple growers and the public by wasting resources on this useless and risky food.” Apple browning is a small cosmetic issue that consumers and the industry have dealt with successfully for generations, she explained.

Environmentalists have been urging Big Food companies to reject the GMO apples. So far McDonald’s and Gerber have said they have no plans to use them.

Arctic Apples eventually will be available in the Granny Smith and Golden Delicious varieties. The only way consumers will be aware that they are genetically modified is if they know enough to look for the Arctic brand on the label.

A major concern of apple industry leaders is that Americans who love fresh apples for taste and health reasons may reject the bio-tech fruit, or all apples if they are unsure about their GM status. The news about the new GM apples could also hurt exports to countries that do not like or allow genetically modified foods.

“In the marketplace we participate in, there doesn’t seem to be room for genetically modified apples now,” said John Rice in a story on the New York Times business page. He is co-owner of Rice Fruit Company, in Gardners, Pa., which calls itself the largest apple packer in the East.

The USDA approval says that growing the GMO apples does not pose any harm to other plants or pests. The apples won’t be in grocery stores immediately, however, as the company awaits a voluntary safety review by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

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State of the Union’s Food

You may also enjoy this classic guide to conscious eating through simple, conscious cooking ala Bittman

The state of the union food-wise is not good, says our favorite New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman. No kidding. That’s why it’s long past time for a National Food Policy.

After all, 15% of Americans (that’s 46.5 million people) are subsisting on SNAP benefits (food stamps). And you can bet that most of them are not getting enough fresh, healthy food with their food stamps, and that many suffer from, or are at fisk of, costly diseases that can be caused by poor nutrition: obesity, Type 2 diabetes and hypertension.

Come to think of it, Bittman says, many of our domestic challenges are connected one way or the other with food.

“You can’t address climate change without fixing agriculture,” he says. “You can’t fix health without improving diet, you can’t improve diet without addressing income, and so on. The production, marketing and consumption of food is key to nearly everything. (It’s one of the keys to war, too, because large-scale agriculture is dependent on control of global land, oil, minerals and water.)”

Here are Bittman’s top policy recommendations:

  • Get antibiotics out of our food supply.
  • Tie reducing greenhouse gas emissions to reining in the industrial production of animals for meat.
  • Support strong front-of-package food labeling.
  • Defend the menu labeling mandated under the Affordable Care Act.

We like his list and have a few more suggestions:

  • Increase financial support for farmers, businesses and organizations that produce and distribute fresh, healthy, local food.
  • Decrease subsidies and incentives to farmers, businesses and organizations that produce, advertise, and distribute unhealthy food, especially to children.
  • Increase the minimum wage of food workers for farms, food processing plants, restaurants, grocery stores, etc.

It’s a start. To read the rest of Bittman’s thoughtful comments on national food policy, click here. Feel free to share your recommendations.

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Save our farms from fiscal cliff

US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) proposed a fiscal package last week that would correct the devastating cuts made to local food and organic agriculture in the “fiscal cliff” deal passed by Congress last month.

The proposal would end direct payments for subsidies and restore the programs for renewable energy, rural small businesses, value-added agriculture, new and beginning farmers, conservation, specialty crops, organic farming, minority farmers, and local food producers that were left out of the farm bill extension portion of the fiscal cliff deal. The cost of those programs combined paled in comparison to the $5 billion price attached to the direct payment program. The Reid proposal would right that wrong and it would also provide immediate funding for livestock disaster assistance, which was also left out when the farm bill was thrown over the cliff earlier.

The Reid proposal would cut defense spending and net farm bill spending by $27.5 billion each over the next decade. The proposal saves the federal government $31 billion in direct commodity production subsidies, while reinvesting $3.5 million to pay for a full farm bill extension, including the programs not included in the fiscal cliff extension.

One of the programs not included in the fiscal cliff farm bill extension provided cost share funds to growers to become certified organic. That program distributed almost $60,000 to NC growers in 2012. Another program not included in the extension provided funding for an organic grain-breeding program at NC State University. This program provided badly needed support to the growing NC organic grain industry through research on organic crop production and pest management.

“We applaud Sen. Reid for taking this step to restore federal support for local food and organic agriculture,” said Roland McReynolds, executive director of the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association. “These small, targeted investments help small and medium-scale farms and businesses provide jobs and healthy food for their communities.”

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Buying local is only the first step

Check out this TEDx talk by Stacy Mitchell, senior researcher with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. She says buying local is a great idea, but it’s only the first step in changing the world. We know that small sustainable farms produce more than twice as much food per acre as big farms, with far less environmental impact. But Walmart continues to capture one in four food dollars in America — and half the market in some three dozen metro areas — not because its food is better (clearly, it’s not), but because it can use its giant market power to influence politics, and the business and tax policies affecting food. It will take collective action by citizens demanding new policies — including a wholly new Farm Bill — to reform our economy for the better. That’s an audacious goal, one worth working toward, while we continue to build a sustainable foodshed for our community.

Here are some excerpts from Stacy’s talk:

“The primary and often exclusive way we think about our agency in the world now is as consumers. But as consumers we’re very weak. We’re operating as lone individuals, making a series of small decisions, and the most we can do is pick between the options that are presented to us….we’re hoping that someday enough of us will have enough information about all the issues and all the choices in the marketplace, and we’ll have access to all the right alternatives, and all or most of us will be able to make the right decisions all or most of the time. But while we’re trying to line up all of these millions of small decisions in the right direction, we are swimming upstream against a powerful down current of public policies that are taking our economy in exactly the opposite direction.

“What we really need to do is change the underlying structures that create the choices in the first place….by acting collectively as citizens…

“We could begin by turning the farm bill on its head. Instead of giving the most money to the biggest farmers feeding the fast-food pipeline, why not give the most money to local farms, feeding their neighbors?…

“The answers are there, and the public support is largely there. The question we have to grapple with is, how do we begin to see our trips to the farmers’ market and to the local bookstore not as the answer, but as the first step? How do we transform this remarkable consumer trend into something more? How do we make it a political movement?”

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Feeding, teaching and helping people to cook and grow food

Handing out onions at the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle’s mobile market at Martin Street Baptist Church in Raleigh. Photo by Billy Lane in the News and Observer.

One of the biggest challenges in growing a sustainable foodshed is making healthy food available and accessible to all. That’s especially difficult when there are so many people out of work, and when low wages, including for those who grow and process our food, mean that many workers struggle to put nutritious meals on the table. The Inter-Faith Food Shuttle and many volunteers tackle these challenges every day by feeding, teaching and helping people cook and grow food. Here’s an excerpt from a great story about it by Burgetta Eplin Wheeler in the News and Observer:

Folding tables lined with oranges, apples and sweet-smelling strawberries. Cardboard bins bursting with cabbage, collards and all kinds of bread. Aproned workers wearing bright and helpful smiles.

This was the healthful and happy picture that recently greeted folks who moved from a line outside Martin Street Baptist Church into the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle’s first mobile market open to all in need in Raleigh.

More than 115 families walked away with bags and boxes stuffed with some of the 10,000 pounds of goods that IFFS had hauled to the church in two refrigerated trucks.

“I work a part-time job, and I barely make it,” said Earlyne Bascombe as she filled a bag with collards. “This is such a blessing.”

The mobile market is but one of a multitude of programs offered by the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, whose motto is: “We feed. We teach. We grow. Give a man a fish. Teach a man to fish. Stock the pond for all.”

• Feed? IFFS is filling the school-year gap by providing breakfast, lunch and snacks this summer to children in low-income areas. In Wake County, where 33 percent of schoolchildren qualify for free and reduced-price lunch, food is available in eight locations.

• Teach? The nonprofit offers a culinary job training program that prepares those with severe life challenges for careers in food service. It also offers apprenticeships for teenagers interested in learning how to farm.

• Grow? IFFS has its own 6-acre farm in Raleigh and helps low-income neighborhoods start community gardens.

“We realize we have to do more than just give people food,” said Kia Baker, the agency’s director of food recovery and distribution. “We’re building the food security system.”

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What’s wrong with this picture?

Once I heard Jim Minick read from The Blueberry Years, I knew I had to take one home with me. It wasn’t just that this “memoir of farm and family” was named the SIBA Best Non-Fiction Book of the year. Or that Jim is a superb writer and story teller. Or even that his book might contain a young couple’s familiar real-life account of how they found their calling on an organic farm at the end of a dazzling country road.

What really attracted me was Jim’s honest approach to each story, which I suspected would reveal much more than the usual sustainable farmer’s story of salvation.

The first hint was when someone asked about the book’s cover image. Jim winced and quietly acknowledged that the idyllic scene on the front was not his farm after all. The publisher took a picture of a dairy farm, Photo-Shopped in an image of a man walking down a central row, and added some generic berry bushes. We’re not sure they’re even blueberry bushes. The result is a symmetrical flat field that bears no resemblance to the Floyd County, Va. , hills where Jim and Sarah planted and mulched their pick-your-own berry operation over the course of a decade.

Thankfully, Jim’ s saga of the berry life is the real-deal. It’s a coming of age tale told with love and reverence for the complexities of small farming in America today. I savored the sweetness in each chapter along with the “What’s wrong with this picture?” moments tucked instructively between them, which Jim labeled “Blue Interludes.” Here’s one entitled “Working off of the farm.” To wit: “One report summarizes that ‘the off-farm income share of total household income…rose from about 50 percent in 1960 to more than 80 percent in the past ten years….the message for those still wanting to farm has become: ‘Get big or get a job.’ Be a not-farmer in order to also be a farmer.”

Jim allows us to taste the freshness of ripe berries, the richness of teaching yourself a new way of life, the challenge of making new friends, and the inconvenient truths about the economics of small-scale farming.

Though he and Sarah usually excel at everything they try, they can’t harvest a viable living by cultivating one of the first organic blueberry farms in the mid-Atlantic region. Even after they pay off the mortgage in less than four years (!), it looks like their off-farm income will always have to exceed the dollars they glean from some of the healthiest blueberries the Blue Ridge has to offer.

It’s not their fault of course. It’s the reality of “sustainable” farming that is often not so sustainable for farmers even when they do their homework and their chores as well as these two bright pioneers do.

In the end, Jim and Sarah decide they desire time to pursue writing and basket-making more than farming. They sell the blueberry business and move to the next county, where they live as teachers and artists, enjoy a slower rural pace, and grow enough food for their table.

The Blueberry Years were hardly wasted, though, in the living or the writing. This is the best small-farm book I’ve read in years, precisely because it’s as much about pursuing one’s passion as it is about how farming should be. I wish I could send a copy to every ag official and politician in the country, so they could learn a few lessons about what’s really needed to improve the future of sustainable farming.

I’m glad Jim has more time to write these days and I look forward to the completion of his novel in progress.

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Foodshare helps farmers and families

Margaret Gifford and husband John Whitehead at the Carrboro market. photo by [email protected]

Margaret Gifford thought that low-income families should have access to fresh locally grown food. So she started taking an empty box to the Carrboro Farmers’ Market to collect unsold produce to donate to local charities that feed the needy.

Now there are Farmer Foodshare stations at nine local farmers’ markets throughout the Triangle, where farmers and customers can donate food or cash to local soup kitchens and food pantries.

But that wasn’t enough for Margaret. She wanted to make the arrangement more financially sustainable for the farmers. So she launched Pennies on the Pound (POP) Market, where farmers are paid a 10-25% discount for food donated to local organizations.

That’s making sustainable food more economically sustainable for everyone in the food chain.

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Time for a junk food tax?

Have you ever wondered what would happen if we increased the price of junk food and used the additional revenue to subsidize fresh, healthy food? Perhaps more important, what will happen if we don’t?

“The need is indisputable,” argues Mark Bittman in today’s New York Times, “since heart disease, diabetes and cancer are all in large part caused by the Standard American Diet (SAD).

Taxing junk food, Bittman explains, would reduce unhealthy consumption and generate billions of dollars that could be used to make healthy food more affordable and accessible.

For example, increasing the price of soda by 20 percent could result in a 20 percent decrease in consumption, which in the next decade could prevent about 1.5 million Americans from becoming obese and avoid 400,000 cases of diabetes. Bottom line, that one step would save nearly $30 billion in healthcare costs.

Now there’s a budget-reduction plan that we could sink our teeth in. Boehner and Obama take note.

To learn more, read the rest of Bittman’s analysis here.

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‘Piedmont Grown’ means what it says

Does it drive you crazy when it turns out that the supermarket produce labeled “farm fresh” actually comes from China or Chile? How can we find out where our “fresh” food really comes from when the labels are hard to read and deliberately vague?

One answer for those of us living in North Carolina is the new “Piedmont Grown” label, which means what it says — this food was cultivated and harvested within our region.

Piedmont Grown is a new local certification program to clearly designate food and agricultural products that are grown, raised, or made within the 37 county Piedmont region, including the Triangle, Triad,and Charlotte areas.

The label helps consumers make informed buying choices that will benefit farms in the region and our local economy.

“Our mission is to support Piedmont farms and rebuild a regional, community-based, farm to fork, local food system,” says farmer Noah Ranells, board member of Piedmont Grown and Ag Economic Development Coordinator for Orange County. “We want to link consumers to local farm fresh foods, build local markets for farmers and food entrepreneurs, and grow healthy and prosperous communities.”

Local food retailers like Darren Stevens of Triad Meat Company in Greensboro are excited about being Piedmont Grown certified. “We believe our customers are looking for ways to get fresher, healthier food selections,” he says. “Being a part of Piedmont Grown is just one more way we can provide them with what they are looking for.”

Piedmont Grown will make its first public splash at the Farm to Fork Picnic at the Breeze Farm in Orange County on June 26th, and with the launch of The website provides a user-friendly local food directory and map spotlighting over 100 Piedmont Grown certified farms and businesses. The site also allows qualified new entities to become certified online. As the program grows, the website will become a central hub for consumers to find local food and to learn about the farmers and businesses that make up our local food economy.

“With so many consumers interested in buying local food we feel there is a need for a program like Piedmont Grown to both identify and reward those that provide it,” says Jay Pierce, Executive Chef of Lucky 32 Restaurants in Greensboro and Cary. “Piedmont Grown removes the mystery from local food purchasing.”

Piedmont Grown is actively certifying farms, farmer’s markets, groceries, restaurants, local food artisans, and other local food businesses. To become certified, members must meet standards and practices specific to their category and sign an annual license agreement to use the Piedmont Grown logo. The standards for using the logo are intended to protect the integrity of the brand and reinforce to the public that these are indeed Piedmont Grown products and businesses.
The annual certification fee of $100 has been prorated to $50 for 2011 and, thanks to a grant, is free for farms this year.

“We enrolled in Piedmont Grown to make the public aware that there are still family run dairies that process their own dairy products and are a valuable resource to the community in which they live,” says Teri Bowman from Homeland Creamery in the Julian community of Guilford County. “We do our own milk so we know it is fresh and isn’t mixed with other dairies as far away as New Mexico.”

The program is managed by Piedmont Grown NC Inc., an incorporated non-profit comprised of a Board of Directors that includes many local food visionaries. Current board members include Ranells and Pierce, as well as Dr. Rudi Colloredo-Mansfeld (UNC-Chapel Hill) and Jonathon Romm (Elon University and Company Shops). A keystone team helps to guide this effort and includes Debbie Roos (Chatham Extension Service), Marco Shaw (Eno Hospitality / Piedmont), Mike Lanier (Orange Extension Service), and Robin Crowder (UNC-CH Gillings Sustainable Ag Project). Piedmont Grown received support from the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project and the Tobacco Trust Fund and is a partner with the 10% Campaign.

“Local means different things to different people,” according to Garland McCollum of Massey Creek Farm in Madison, Rockingham County. “Piedmont Grown is our effort to define local and identify those products that meet our definition. Small business is the force that drives the national economy. Identifying those local farms, restaurants, and markets that provide fresh healthy alternatives is a way we can all work to build our local economy, the national economy, and preserve our green space.”

Follow The Money

all roads lead to Putin, but first they stop off in trump’s wallet, and his pockets, and his coffers…and by trump, I mean his offspring also…it seems trump “plowed” through a billion dollars to get re-elected…but a lot of that went into trump pocket…front and back pockets…but first, remember trump told us he was sooooooo wealthy he would fund his campaign…and then went into his song and dance, “brother can you spare a dime?”…and did he call the Exxon?…not sure, but Exxon denied getting a call…in the meantime, tons of money passed through to his first campaign manager Brad Parscale, who bought a fleet of luxury vehicles and padded his own wallet…from AP article by Brian Slodysko and Zeke Miller: “President Donald Trump’s sprawling political operation has raised well over $1 billion since he took the White House in 2017 — and set a lot of it on fire.

Trump bought a $10 million Super Bowl ad when he didn’t yet have a challenger” ( money well spent ). “He tapped his political organization to cover exorbitant legal fees related to his impeachment” ( why should he pay for his own legal fees, or for that matter, that of his son Jr.? ). “Aides made flashy displays of their newfound wealth — including a fleet of luxury vehicles purchased by Brad Parscale, his former campaign manager” ( who has his own problems now, being investigated for ‘stealing $25-$40 Million from campaign funds, plus an additonal $10 Million for the Rupublican National Committee, and do I have to mention Parscale being tackled by police on his front lawn or thereabouts, just a few things he has to contend with ).

“Meanwhile, a web of limited liability companies hid more than $356 million in spending from disclosure, records show.” ( you gotta wonder where $356 Million went? )…( poor trump, don’t you feel sorry for him?…me either…he’s had to cut back on his air time…the trump show on it’s way to cancellation )…more from AP: “

Since 2017, more than $39 million has been paid to firms controlled by Parscale, who was ousted as campaign manager over the summer. An additional $319.4 million was paid to American Made Media Consultants, a Delaware limited liability company, whose owners are not publicly disclosed.

Campaigns typically reveal in mandatory disclosures who their primary vendors are. But by routing money to Parscale’s firms, as well as American Made Media Consultants, Trump satisfied the basic disclosure requirements without detailing the ultimate recipients.

Other questionable expenditures by Trump and the RNC that are included in campaign finance disclosures:

— Nearly $100,000 spent on copies of Donald Trump Jr.’s book “Triggered,” which helped propel it to the top of the New York Times bestsellers list.

— Over $7.4 million spent at Trump-branded properties since 2017.

— At least $35.9 million spent on Trump merchandise.

— $39 million in legal and “compliance” fees. In addition to tapping the RNC and his campaign to pay legal costs during his impeachment proceedings, Trump has also relied on his political operation to cover legal costs for some aides.

— At least $15.1 million spent on the Republican National Convention. The event was supposed to be in Charlotte, North Carolina, but Trump relocated it to Jacksonville, Florida, after a dispute with North Carolina’s Democratic governor over coronavirus safety measures. The Florida event was ultimately canceled, with a mostly online convention taking its place. Disclosures show the RNC still spent $1 million at the Ritz Carlton Amelia Island, near Jacksonville.

— $912,000 spent on ads that ran on the personal Facebook pages of Parscale and Trump spokesperson Katrina Pierson.

— A $250,000 ad run during Game 7 of the 2019 World Series, which came after Trump was booed by spectators when he attended Game 5.

— At least $218,000 for Trump surrogates to travel aboard private jets provided by campaign donors.

— $1.6 million on TV ads in the Washington, D.C., media market, an overwhelmingly Democratic area where Trump has little chance of winning but where he is a regular TV watcher.”…( what?…because he wants to see his ads on TV?…what? )…squander is as squander does!…trump knows how to divert funds to his own pockets…it’s the family business…the trouble is trying to hold onto it…

meanwhile, Mitt Romney tells us he voted, Utah has early voting, and every registered voter gets a ballot in the mail…so Mitt voted, but we don’t know who he voted for…but we do know who he didn’t vote for…he tells us he didn’t vote for trump…he’s on the dump trump train…so moving but gathering speed lately…but we have the granddaughter of Billy Graham, Jerushah Duford tells us she’s evangelical, “pro-life” and she’s voting for Biden who is more in keeping with her Christian values…she says trump is “trying to hijack our faith for votes”…( who all know he will do anything for his re-election, maybe all he can do now is cheat, his favorite pastime )… Jerushah also encouraged her fellow Christians to vote for Biden…from The New York Times article by Nicholas Kristof: “Mr. President, the days of using our faith for your benefit are over,” declares a video from a Christian group called Not Our Faith. “We know you need the support of Christians like us to win this election. But you can’t have it. Not our vote. Not our faith.”

The Rev. John Huffman, who once was President Richard Nixon’s pastor, said he has voted Republican all his life but has now joined a group called Pro-Life Evangelicals for Biden. He said he prays for Trump but sees him as “an immoral, amoral sociopathic liar who functions from a core of insecure malignant narcissism.”…( you think he has trump’s number? )…

while trump was in Erie, Pennsylvania today…telling them he’s only there because his campaign is going so badly…he never expected to have to be in Erie…and then…Erie vote for me…almost like asking white suburban women to please like him…Obama was in Philadelphia…telling us he loves Philadelphia and Pennsylvania who delivered for him twice and gave him the presidency…at a car rally he tells us Biden made him a better president…and “can you imagine if I had a secret bank account in China?…do you think Fox News would have something to say about that?…before the rally, Obama spoke and answered question from young black voters…getting out the vote…it’s the way to change things that are happening…and speaking to Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta ( the Rep. who called out PA Republicans for trying to suppress the vote by forming a “voting integrity committee” )…and change has come…noting Kenyatta’s haircut in the Legislature…the times, they are a changin’…two different messages today in Pennsylvania…it’s kind of scary how we are so crucial to winning the election…I’m still embarrassed that PA went for trump in 2016…actually I was devastated…I didn’t like that feeling…trump promised to bring back jobs to PA…that didn’t happen…no money to follow here…flush the TURD November Third…

thanks to Stephen “nazi” Miller and trump…we have 545 children still stranded here in the U.S. after having been ripped from their parents at the border� children who have learned English while here for two years with no way of being re-united with their parents…how cruel…another reason to flush the TURD November Third…

Happy Birthday Kamala Harris…she just turned 56 on October 20…born the year I graduated College…just over the hill from Oakland, California… HBTY…

Watch the video: Berufsbild KochKöchin (June 2022).