Politics & Policy

Christie Takes a Tougher Tone against Michelle Obama’s School-Lunch Reforms

(File photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

It’s been a tough week for First Lady Michelle Obama. Not only did Congress (correctly) roll back many of her school-lunch “reforms,” but, according to CBS news, she also lost a former supporter.

During a campaign stop this week in Council Bluffs, Iowa, New Jersey governor Chris Christie denounced the first lady’s reforms, using the school-lunch program to prove his small-government bona fides.

The issue of school lunches, he suggested, is a bit too small beans for the president. “Doesn’t the president of the United States have anything better to do than to worry about what you are having for lunch?” he asked. “Let me tell you this, I don’t care.” School-lunch decisions should be up to parents, he told Iowa voters.

He’s right, of course. Parents are the best arbiters of what’s best for their growing child, and multiple studies show that children benefit when their parents take an active interest in their children’s nutritional development.

Yet, Christie didn’t sound so pro-parent a few years ago. During a 2012 appearance on Face the Nation, host Bob Schieffer asked Christie, “What do you think about this criticism coming from the right of Michelle Obama because she’s trying to get people to eat better?” Republican criticisms of the reforms were “unnecessary,” Christie answered, adding: 

I think it’s s really good goal to encourage kids to eat better. I don’t want the government deciding what you can eat and what you can’t eat. I still think that’s your choice. But Mrs. Obama being out there and encouraging people in a positive way to eat well and to exercise and to be healthy? I don’t have a problem with that.  

The overhaul that Christie chided Republicans for criticizing funneled $4.5 billion into a bloated, mismanaged, and downright wasteful federal feeding program. It left kids more hungry and unsatisfied with school food than ever before (just check out the Twitter hashtag #thanksmichelleobama to see proof), and it resulted in record levels of food waste nationwide.

#related#Everyone would support the goal of helping people — both kids and adults — eat better. The question is: Who gets to decide? With help from the first lady, the Obama administration set out early in its tenure to increase the role of government in every aspect of our lives, including the one that’s the most basic and closest to home: feeding one’s own children.

Christie is clearly doing his best to win the support of the conservative base. And to do that, he needs to back away from his habit of making nice with those who push big-government programs. His support for Michelle Obama was hardly the hug seen ’round the world. But it is nonetheless a reminder of his habit of flirting with those on the left.

— Julie Gunlock is a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.

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