Mrs. Obama defended herself against critics, saying that "I didn't create this issue." She said kids will eventually get used to the changes.
"That's our job as parents, to hold steady through the whining," she said.
Aware of the backlash, the Agriculture Department is allowing schools to make some of their own decisions on what constitutes marketing and is asking for comments on some options. For example, the proposal asks for comments on initiatives like Pizza Hut's "Book It" program, which coordinates with schools to reward kids with pizza for reading.
Rules for other school fundraisers, like bake sales and marketing for those events, would be left up to schools or states.
Off-campus fundraisers, like an event at a local fast-food outlet that benefits a school, still would be permitted. But posters advertising the fast food may not be allowed in school hallways. An email to parents -- with or without the advertising -- would have to suffice. The idea is to market to the parents, not the kids.
The rules also make allowances for major infrastructure costs -- that scoreboard advertising Coca-Cola, for example, wouldn't have to be torn down immediately. But the school would have to get one with a different message or product the next time it was replaced.
Schools that don't want to comply could leave the National School Lunch Program, which allows schools to collect government reimbursements for free and low-cost lunches for needy students in exchange for following certain standards. Very few schools choose to give up those government dollars though.
The beverage industry -- led by Coca-Cola Co., Dr Pepper Snapple Group and PepsiCo -- is on board with the new rules. American Beverage Association President and CEO Susan Neely said in a statement that aligning signage with the more healthful drinks that will be offered in schools is the "logical next step."
The public will have 60 days to comment on the proposed rules, which also would allow more children access to free lunches and ensure that schools have wellness policies in place.
The 2010 child nutrition law expanded food programs for hungry students. The rules proposed Tuesday would increase that even further by allowing the highest-poverty schools to serve lunch and breakfast to all students for free, with the cost shared between the federal government and the schools. According to the Agriculture Department and the White House, that initiative would allow 9 million children in 22,000 schools to receive free lunches.
The department already has tested the program in 11 states.