Ad for healthy school meals raises eyebrows at the White House

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The White House isn’t happy with a new poster ad in DC metro stations, according to the Washington Post. The ad depicts an eight-year-old girl with the speech bubble, “President Obama’s daughters get healthy school lunches. Why don’t I?”

The poster comes from the non-profit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), a group that’s asking Congress to give kids more low-fat and vegetarian options in federally subsidized school meal programs. To be sure, those government programs have come leaps and bounds since the days of ketchup as a vegetable. Today’s nutrition rules require consistency with national Dietary Guidelines for Americans, for example. (That means a lunch can’t contain, say, eight times a child’s daily recommended sodium intake.) But in its 2008 school lunch report card, PCRM still found a wide range of meal quality.

Some school districts serve excellent options, including low-fat veggie sides and non-dairy alternatives to milk, while other districts still focus on the classics of cheap American fare: burgers and hot dogs.

“At most schools, children have no alternative at all to the meaty, cheesy, high-calorie fare that contributes to childhood obesity and health problems,” PCRM president Neal Barnard announced when his group launched its new poster ads last week. In particular, PCRM wants schools to provide students with a daily choice of vegetarian and vegan entree.

As for the White House response, PCRM’s Barnard told the Post that the point of contention was not the school lunches themselves, but whether it’s OK to mention the President’s kids in an ad campaign. PCRM feels the ads are effective. But many on the Hill feel they’re in poor taste. “The children of the President are always off-limits. Always. No exceptions. No ifs, ands or buts,” one Republican political consultant told the paper.

Click here to view the school lunch metro ad two-sheet poster.