The Obamas’ Political Obesity

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The concept of healthier school diets is not new. The National School Lunch Program was launched way back in 1946. The program is operating in more than 100,000 public and non-profit private schools and residential child care institutions. It provides nutritionally balanced low-cost and free lunches to more than 31 million children each school day. No more than 30 percent of a meal’s calories come from fat and less than 10 percent from saturated fat. School lunches provide one-third of the “recommended dietary allowances of protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, iron, calcium, and calories.” Specific food choices—at least for the moment– are made by local school authorities. The program has been extended to summer and after-school health snacks in some areas. Children in families with incomes at or below 130 percent of poverty level are eligible for free meals. In 2010, that’s $28,665 for a family of four.

Even federal initiatives specifically to fight obesity are nothing new. In 2004, Pinellas County, Florida, was one of 22 counties across the country which got $35.7 million from the Health and Human Services Department to battle obesity. In Dan Marino’s restaurant in St. Petersburg, FL., kids were offered an expanded choice of healthy foods. “Now 40 percent of our customers orders are for healthier kids fare,” the chef, Thomas Costello, said at the time.

President Obama’s decision to put his wife in charge of the battle against childhood obesity is reminiscent of Bill Clinton’s decision to let his wife, Hillary, run the 1993 effort to create national health-care reform. Each greatly enlarged the political persona of both women. But in both cases, neither woman was an expert in the field they were chosen to direct. After months of pushing the health initiative in secret meetings, Hillary appeared at one large gathering of experts in Washington that did allow news media coverage. (Because I covered the meeting as a Washington correspondent, I recall that Mrs. Clinton in her questions and comments revealed her lack of knowledge of critical elements of the health field).

Mrs. Obama has said that the obesity “epidemic” impacts the nation’s security, as obesity is now “one of the most common disqualifiers for military service.” According to a military study it is true that many young men are disqualified for health reasons, including obesity. But many more are turned down for being undereducated or because of criminal records. Many recruiters have worked with overweight applicants to help them trim down to acceptable weight.

“I’m for a free-market solution to obesity,” says Hank Cardello, CEO of 27 Degrees North, a consulting firm that aids food companies link profit and social responsibility. If you have a 10 percent tax on soft drinks, you lower consumption, but “we aren’t solving the obesity issue,” according to research, he said. He suggested giving a bonus or tax credit if a food company reduces calories, not eliminating a tax deduction for advertising, as promoted by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio). “All food has to be perfect all the time” is a draconian stance. “Food ought to be fun.” The attitude that food is “either 100 percent good or it’s poison is extreme.”

Government dictates (such as cutting desserts, substituting water for soft drinks, exercising 60 minutes each day) as called for by Mrs. Obama may be effective deterrents to obesity; but they surely intrude on personal liberty and parental responsibility.

While obesity is widespread and potentially dangerous for America’s children, what huge federal program exists to spotlight leukemia, which kills 44 U.S. children every week; or cystic fibrosis, a most common incurable genetic disorder (one in every 3,000 Caucasian American babies have cystic fibrosis); or Duchenne muscular dystrophy, fatal for kids; or Down syndrome (one in every 800 births in the U.S.) with its intellectual disabilities, heart defects and gastrointestinal malfunctions? No grandiose government programs are in place for these unfortunate children.

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  • davarino

    Bring back mandated PE in school. Is that to much to ask. We had that when I was a kid and nobody died. We all excercised and were in pretty good shape. Kids today get out of PE cause mommy doesnt want their little jonnie to sweat to much. All these single mothers are letting their kids sit around and do nothing. That shows you how valuable our current school systems are, not only do they not teach the kids anything, they dont make them excercise, but they sure as hell are going to control what they eat.

  • NCPatriotMom

    How about instead of regulating the food we eat, the Obamas recommend to lame duck parents that they NOT let their children watch 6+ hours of TV per day and make them go play? They can't — because you'll never be able to force parents to take care of their kids.

  • Deely

    Stupid US government is the very reason for the obesity. A lot of people think that obesity is because people eat too much. That may be part of it, but the other is that healthy foods like fruits and vegetables have become so expensive, only the wealthy can afford to buy enough for a week or two. The alternative is starchy, fried foods using a lot of potatoes and pasta to go far enough. All the grocery stores have nothing but fast food to sell because all the mothers are working to make ends meet and don't have time to cook properly.

    Our government has stolen all the wealth of America and spends it like drunken sailors, but want to blame the citizens for the problems the government spawns. Kids can't even play on the playground anymore because of govt. interference. Someone might need a band aid.

  • Deely

    Government promotes dependency on it through taking from half the population and giving it to the other that didn't earn it. There are too many children without fathers who grow up to be illiterate and run the streets with gangs and don't contribute to society and become a burden to society through crime and drug use. No one should be able to be on welfare generation after generation. The promotion of having children out of wedlock is deadly to a society. There are mothers who do a good job of raising children alone, but far too many can’t do it alone and their children suffer for it.

    The point is that all of these things take money from those that work and give it to a huge population that doesn’t work.

  • chris jones

    Is Michelle right? Are close to fifty percent of black Americans expected to come down with diabetes? Uh… That should make you spray coffee all over your monitor. That's bad, like, worse than AIDS bad! Diabetes/high blood-pressure leads to a series of conditions and events that cause your heart to weaken and then stop – extreme risk! The thought of millions of people with metabolic syndrome is truly ghastly; something should most definitely be done. But you know what? I don't trust the Government to handle the problem. I think they'll just fart around with a bunch of politically correct, vote-garnering, union-pleasing notions, and accomplish nothing whatsoever – probably make things worse. Hope I'm wrong…

  • Ron

    Whenever a "progressive" pushes some good sounding cause like this one from the past, especially someone like Obama who is as far to the left as it comes, they are doing it as a strategy for more government, more taxes, and government interference in the lives of the citizens of this country.

    This is also designed to feed the Unions by increasing greatly the number of SEIU, and other government Union jobs that will be necessary in state and local government to deal with all the new red tape!

    This sounds like Johnson sounded in 1965 launching his destructive war on poverty! It also indicates the coming attempt to control what we eat and drink. The war on Food has begun!!

  • The Cat Lady

    If the parents bought healthy food and limited the TV to an hour a day, kids wouldn't be fat. It's that simple.

  • sebyandrew

    Unfortunately I have no hope or any reason whatsoever to believe that this won't be yet another huge boondoggle. If the government will just step in everyone will choose the right foods, lifestyle, etc. Of course Mrs. Obama has a lot of money at her disposal (ours) for her newest hobby-social engineering