I finally got a chance to take a few minutes to read Michelle Obama’s NYT Op-Ed last May 28, 2014, entitled The Campaign for Junk Food. In it, the first lady shared the progress being made by the initiative Let’s Move, which has the big hairy audacious goal of ending the epidemic of childhood obesity. They targeted school lunches. They worked to have more fresh food retailers in areas where there were no groceries. Sounds simple and straightforward, right? Well, no.
We all know how grossly ineffectual our Congress is to do anything remotely sensible or fair. And when they get involved in our nation’s health promotion, most of us would just roll our eyes up, throw our hands in the air, and shake our heads. It is a guaranteed long, tedious, and frustrating battle. Where have you ever heard a Congress declare that pizza sauce should count as a vegetable in school lunches? Or, that the recommended Food Pyramid Guide had been redrawn to favor some food industries? At least, the old odd pyramid has finally been replaced by a plate! now, and with more emphasis on plant-based foods. Have you heard about Congress threatening to roll back the more reasonable and sensible standards they had previously set, and allow more sodium, less grains, more sugar? I think the better question is, whose payroll are they on? Big company lobbyists? The corn people (HFCS a.k.a. High Fructose Corn Syrup)? The chips and candy people?
There is also the debate on what food stamps can buy. I had listened to a Forum session where Michael Krasny had a lively discussion on “Should Food Stamp Users Be Blocked From Buying Junk Food?” I wanted to stand and applaud Michele Simon for taking a stand against big processed food corporations that are making a killing in the food stamp benefit business, all at the expense of low-income families. But, I was driving, so I could not very well do that! Opponents claim they don’t want to limit people’s choices as it might lead to more hunger. Really? So you stem hunger temporarily with lots of sugar, chemicals, salt, fat, paid for by taxpayers, by the way. And then, you make these same taxpayers pay for the obesity, hypertension, diabetes, to name a few, that these same consumers of these low-nutrition foods have developed after eating this garbage over the years? That’s supposed to make sense?
I can only hope Mrs. Obama will continue carrying this torch beyond her term as First Lady. I wish she could galvanize more influential people to drum up even more support for this so we can all collectively drown out the naysayers, the libertarians who want to be left alone, and more importantly, the big industries who have most of the politicians in Congress in their payrolls. Is that too much to ask? After all, as the song goes, “Tomorrow belongs to our children.”