The Food Police

Ending fat in our time.

In Hoke County, North Carolina, a four-year-old girl brought her homemade lunch to school.  It contained a turkey and cheese sandwich, apple juice, potato chips, and a banana.

All hell broke loose.

A state inspector pounced on the lunch as though he’d found a loose land mine in the pre-school.  He decided that the lunch didn’t contain all the relevant parts of the complete meal, and that the girl needed a full school lunch tray, including chicken nuggets, a fruit and a vegetable, and milk.  The girl, being a non-statist, peacefully resisted the vegetable, and downed the chicken nuggets.

The mother was outraged, as well she should be.  “I can’t put vegetables in her lunchbox,” she told the Civitas Institute.  “I’m not a millionaire and I’m not going to put something in there that my daughter doesn’t eat and I’ve done gone round and round with the teacher about that and I’ve told her that.  I put fruit in there every day because she is a fruit eater.  Vegetables, let me take care of my business at home and at night and that’s when I see she’s eating vegetables.”

But no.  This is not the way Big Government world works.  See, the more the government pays for, the more the government has an interest in all of your actions.  If the government is funding your nutritional needs, the government has an interest in you eating just the right amount; if you decide to toss your vegetables, someone else will have to pay the price, and we wouldn’t want that.  This is the same principle behind Obamacare – with everybody sponsoring everybody else’s healthcare, the state now has a compelling interest in telling you what, when, and how to eat.

There are two problems with this animal husbandry-style level of control.  First, it cuts against fundamental American freedoms.  White or black, rich or poor, if there’s one thing Americans won’t stand for, it’s namby-pamby liberals telling them to eat arugula.  One of the joys of living in a free country is deciding what to eat.  As visitors from poverty-stricken foreign lands what they admire most about America, and they’ll tell you it’s the variety of cuisine available at any time, day or night.  Force-feeding Americans soylent green for their own good isn’t going to mesh well with traditional notions of liberty.

Second, the government is poorly situated to tell you how to feed your child or yourself.  Take, for example, the government’s recent statement that Americans eat too many carbohydrates, and that the bread we eat is loaded with salt.  They’re right, naturally – but the reason we’re eating too much bread is because they told us to do it in the first place.  I remember attending public grade school and hearing our teacher tell us about the Magical Food Pyramid, which showed grains and rice taking up the base of the pyramid (accounting for 6-11 servings per day).  There was no way to look at that pyramid and not assume that the key to health was to carb load.

As it turns out, the reason the federal government stacked the Food Pyramid with grains is that the U.S. Department of Agriculture created the pyramid, and in order to please farmers, decided to convince Americans to buy tons of corn flakes.  As Dr. Walter Willett of Harvard Medical School observed, “The economic interests are so strong …. It’s very difficult for them to be objective, so it’s probably the worst possible agency to do the pyramid.”

Now that the government wants to give us “free” healthcare, we have to listen to the food police about every aspect of our health.  With the government running healthcare top-to-bottom, it will be difficult to challenge its dominance.  We’ll all be like the little girl’s mom –fuming at the standard, and then accept it because they have no choice.

This is the danger of “free” goods from the government – there are always strings attached.  If you accept food from the government, don’t be surprised to see Michelle Obama waving her finger in your face, urging you to eat organic.  As that four-year-old girl found out, there’s no such thing as a free lunch when the government wants to control your life.

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