(ALEXANDRIA, Va.) — As a group of elementary school children went through the lunch line at Parklawn Elementary school in Alexandria, Va., on Wednesday, first lady Michelle Obama playfully reminded the students, “Don’t forget your veggies!”
Mrs. Obama was joined by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and celebrity chef Rachael Ray to talk with parents and teachers about the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s new and improved nutrition standards for school lunches.
“When we send our kids to school, we have a right to expect that they won’t be eating the kind of fatty, salty, sugary foods that we’re trying to keep from them when they’re at home,” the first lady said. “We have a right to expect that the food they get at school is the same kind of food that we want to serve at our own kitchen tables.”
The new standards are a huge milestone for the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act that President Obama signed into law last year. They will ensure that students receive healthy meals at school, including more fruits and vegetables, increased amounts of whole-grain-rich foods, and fat-free or low-fat milk options.
Vilsack called Wednesday a “red letter day for America’s children” because this is the first time in a generation that the nation improved the standards of nutrition in school meals for children.
“That’s what this is about,” he said. ”It’s about improving the quality of the meals that are served to 32 million American children.”
As soon as Mrs. Obama entered the cafeteria, about 220 children jumped to their feet to cheer and wave American flags. She walked down one side of the cafeteria with Vilsack, greeting kids and shaking hands as she made her way to the food line.
The first lady walked through the food line with a group of children, asking them to “show her the ropes.” When approaching the vegetables, she said to the kids, “This is the best part,” and encouraged them to get their veggies too.
Mrs. Obama reminded parents and teachers that it’s going to take some effort, imagination and commitment to improve the quality of food that’s served at schools. She asked them to “embrace” this effort, because parents are the best role models for their children.
“If we as adults embrace it, the kids will follow suit,” she said.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Steve Visser and Lauren Del Valle, CNN
Lauren Leslie, CNN
Jeremy Diamond, CNN
Paul R. La Monica, CNN