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White House Taps Farm-to-School Advocate to Lead Let's Move! Campaign

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Debra "Deb" Eschmeyer will take over as executive director of the Let's Move! child health initiative and as senior policy advisor for nutrition policy, the White House announced Thursday.

Eschmeyer, who co-founded FoodCorps, takes the place of former White House Executive Chef Sam Kass, who announced plans to leave in December. Food Corps places AmeriCorps volunteers in schools for a year to teach about nutrition, lead students in hands-on activities like gardening, and assist with farm-to-school initiatives.

Eschmeyer grew up on a dairy farm in rural Ohio, and she has worked as Food Corps vice president for external affairs from her own Ohio farm, her biography notes. Also from that biography:

"Eschmeyer is a recipient of the James Beard Foundation Leadership Award in recognition of her school food reform efforts. As a Food & Community Fellow with the Institute for Agriculture & Trade Policy and the Communications and Outreach Director of the National Farm to School Network, Eschmeyer created One Tray, a successful national campaign to improve child nutrition by encouraging a more direct connection between local farms and federal nutrition programs.  Eschmeyer currently serves on the AGree Advisory Council and the Culinary Institute of America Sustainable Business Leadership Council."

Eschmeyer takes on her new role at a moment when child nutrition advocates fear for the future of new school lunch rules championed by the first lady and Let's Move!.

This summer, the House appropriations committee favored including a rider in its agriculture appropriations bill that would have created a waiver process that would allow some schools to take a year off from the rules. A spending bill approved by Congress and signed by President Obama in December stopped short of creating full waivers, instead easing whole-grain requirements and sodium limits. But it remains to be seen how Congress, now controlled by Republicans in both chambers, will handle the regulations in the long term.

Photo: First Lady Michelle Obama joins FoodCorps leaders and local students for the spring garden planting in the White House Kitchen Garden, April 2, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

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