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by Debra Eschmeyer

As First Lady you have the ability to set the table for what our nation’s children eat by adding a plank of food justice to your platform. Many ideas have already been sent your way, including starting an organic garden on the White House lawn and appointing a First Farmer. But where should you start?

I request that you make the health of our nation’s children your platform priority. Especially with two growing girls to nurture and nourish, you must understand that we will only be successful as a nation when all children in our country are healthy and well-fed.

You have the support of the 44th President. The Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, was quoted yesterday in the Washington Post explaining President Obama’s goals for the USDA, “The vision is, he wants more nutritious food in schools.” Vilsack went on to depict the role of local foods in that mission: “In a perfect world, everything that was sold, everything that was purchased and consumed would be local, so the economy would receive the benefit of that.”

You have a ripe opportunity to make great strides toward that vision with the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act, which is the federal legislation that establishes the guidelines for our nation’s school meal programs and the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program. Every four or five years, there’s an opening for all of those concerned with the health of our nation’s children to evaluate, defend, and improve the federal Child Nutrition Programs. That time is now as the current Child Nutrition Act expires in September 2009.

With at least 35 to 40 percent of children’s daily eating occurring during the school day, a reformed cafeteria could improve the health and increase the capacity to learn for the 30 million children that eat at school 180 days per year.

When you invited Chef Sam Kass into the White House Kitchen, your spokeswoman said “he happens to have a particular interest in healthy food and local food.” Mr. Kass has spoken out previously on the need to change the school lunch menu by decreasing the high levels of sugar and fat. He’s right.