The story behind the school lunch debate

An inside look at how difficult it is to make the economics and standards of school meals work.

WASHINGTON—First lady Michelle Obama and school lunch ladies used to be on the same team, but now they’re locked in a political war against each other.

For the first three years of Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign, the School Nutrition Association, a powerful group that represents 55,000 cafeteria professionals, was a close ally in the White House push to get kids to eat healthier.

The group helped lobby for the legislation at the center of the debate: the 2010 Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, a law championed by the first lady that mandates more fruits and vegetables, whole grains and less sodium in exchange for more federal funding on meals.