Michelle Obama on Deciding What Kids Eat: ‘We Can’t Just Leave it Up to The Parents’

CNS News – By Penny Starr

Speaking at Monday’s signing ceremony for the “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act”– a law that will subsidize and regulate what children eat before school, at lunch, after school, and during summer vacations in federally funded school-based feeding programs — First Lady Michelle Obama said of deciding what American children should eat: “We can’t just leave it up to the parents.”

The law gives the federal government for the first time the authority to regulate the food sold at local schools, including in vending machines.

“Everywhere I go, fortunately, I meet parents who are working very hard to make sure that their kids are healthy,” said Mrs. Obama. “They’re doing things like cutting down on desserts and trying to increase fruits and vegetables. They’re trying to teach their kids the kind of healthy habits that will stay with them for a lifetime.

“But when our kids spend so much of their time each day in school, and when many children get up to half their daily calories from school meals, it’s clear that we as a nation have a responsibility to meet as well,” Mrs. Obama said. “We can’t just leave it up to the parents.  I think that parents have a right to expect that their efforts at home won’t be undone each day in the school cafeteria or in the vending machine in the hallway.  I think that our parents have a right to expect that their kids will be served fresh, healthy food that meets high nutritional standards.”

The Senate approved the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act legislation in August and the House approved it earlier this month by a vote of 264-157 (with 153 Republicans and 4 Democrats voting no, and 247 Democrats and 17 Republicans voting yes). The law will be administered by the Department of Agriculture, which will craft new school nutrition standards under the law.

The law increases spending on school nutrition programs by $4.5 billion over ten years and encompasses a range of provisions, including offering qualified children breakfast, lunch and dinner at school, as well as meals during the summer. It also includes a pilot program for “organic foods.”

President Obama said at the signing ceremony—held at the Harriet Tubman Elementary School in Washington. D.C.–that he was following in the tradition of President Harry S. Truman, who signed the first federal school lunch program into law, and President Lyndon B. Johnson, who signed the Childhood Nutrition Act of 1966.

Obama said that if the bill had not reached his desk for his signature, “I would be sleeping on the couch.”

The law has been championed by the first lady as part of her campaign to end childhood obesity. Michelle Obama said that while it may seem ironic to be addressing childhood hunger and obesity at the same time, “it’s really just two sides of the same coin.”

Critics of the bill include former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, a Republican, who took cookies to an event in Pennsylvania in November to illustrate what she said is the “nanny state run amok.”


Cookiegate: Sarah Palin Takes on ‘Nanny State’ Nutrition Guidelines

ABC News – By Mary Bruce

Sarah Palin is baking up some controversy over proposed school nutrition guidelines in Pennsylvania. At a fundraising event at a Buck’s County school today, the former Alaska governor intends to serve students cookies to make a point about “laissez-faire” government.

Pennsylvania’s proposed school nutrition guidelines would limit the number of sweets in classroom parties and encourage parents to serve more healthy snacks. The proposal, which will be voted on this spring, would also slash the number of birthday and holiday parties allowed in classrooms.

Yesterday Palin tweeted that, in addition to her fundraising power, she “may bring cookies” to the Plumstead Christian School to protest the guidelines.

“Hmm…may bring cookies to my PA school speech tmrw to make a pt ‘PA mulls ban on cake/cookies/candy@ school parties,’” Palin posted, linking to an article from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review about the guidelines.

Today Palin took it further saying Pennsylvania was a “nanny state run amok.”

“2 PA school speech; I’ll intro kids 2 beauty of laissez-faire via serving them cookies amidst school cookie ban debate;Nanny state run amok!” the 2008 vice presidential candidate posted on Twitter.

While Palin’s comments may be tongue-in-cheek, the debate over government intervention in school nutrition programs continues to be a point of contention in Congress.

In August, the Senate passed the $4.5 billion “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act,” which would expand children’s access to federal nutrition programs and give schools more money to spend per meal. Supporters say the bill would significantly improve the nutritional quality of school lunches by upgrading menus and banning certain junk food from lunch lines.

The legislation, which awaits approval in the House, would mark the largest investment in child nutrition programs since their inception.

Obesity has become one of the biggest public health challenges facing the country — in the U.S. roughly a third of children and teens are obese.

Critics, however, question the legislation’s hefty price tag. “Calls for long-term increases in spending on school meal programs are irresponsible,” Robert Rector, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, testified before a House hearing this summer.

“I have spent my entire career … on this kind of spending and I can tell you I absolutely have no idea where all that money goes,” Rector said. “Before you propose spending even more money, you ought to at least have a reasonable accounting of where this money is currently going.”

Update: Palin brought 200 sugar cookies to the students at Peace Valley Elementary, the elementary school associated with the Plumstead Christian School. According to her spokesperson, Palin said she wished she could have baked herself.

Report calls obesity a threat to US national security

Obesity among military-aged men and women is on the rise, leaving a smaller pool of people fit to serve.

The CS Monitor – By Jeanna Bryner

Americans are becoming too fat for their britches, military britches that is.

From 2007 to 2008, 5.7 million American men and 16.5 million women of military age were ineligible for duty because they were overweight or obese, according to a team of Cornell researchers. (Military branches must recruit about 184,000 new personnel to replace those who leave every year, according to 2009 numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.)

In the past half-century, the number of women of military age who exceed the U.S. Army’s enlistment standards for weight-to-height ratio and body fat percentage has more than tripled. For military-age men, the figure has more than doubled, the researchers report in a working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research entitled, “Unfit for Service: The Implications of Rising Obesity for U.S. Military Recruitment.”

“Almost one in four applicants to the military are rejected for being overweight or obese – it’s the most common reason for medical disqualification,” study researcher John Cawley, an associate professor of policy analysis and management, said in a statement. “It is well-known that the military is struggling to recruit and retain soldiers. Having a smaller pool of men and women who are fit enough to serve adds to the strain and creates even more problems for national defense.”

Being too heavy or fat meant 23 percent of applicants were rejected from the military, according to a 2006 National Research Council (NRC) report. (The second most common reason is smoking marijuana, which leads to rejection of nearly 13 percent of applicants, according to the 2006 NRC report.)

The findings support several previous studies, including a report put out by a collection of retired generals and admirals, “Too Fat to Fight,” who explained their concern that the increase in youth obesity might compromise military readiness and national security, the researchers say.

While that report was based on data from 2006-2008, Cawley and economics doctoral student Catherine Maclean charted the climbing obesity rates using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys spanning 1959 to 2008. They also estimated the number of civilians who meet the body fat requirements of each military branch – Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps – something that hadn’t been tracked previously.

For instance, here are standards for enlistment to the U.S. Marine Corps for one group of men and women:

  • Men (ages 21-30, height of 5 foot 10 inches): maximum weight (222 pounds), maximum body fat (for all heights, 18 percent)
  • Women (ages 21-27, height of 5 foot 5 inches): maximum weight (153 pounds), maximum body fat (26 percent)

“It’s another example of the underappreciated public consequences of obesity,” Cawley said. “We tend to think of obesity as a personal, individual health problem. But the fact that U.S. military leaders view it as a threat to national security and military readiness shows its far-reaching impact.”

The Nanny State Food Police Cometh

Liberate US – by Jerid M. Fisher, PhD

Remember mom’s admonition? “Elbows off the table, sit up straight and eat your vegetables!” Common sense advice, right? Of course, as Mark Twain was so fond of saying, “If it’s so common, why is it so rare?” During those formative years, we learned what foods were good for us and which ones were bad. Our mothers empowered us to make healthy food choices. In fact, we didn’t even need a mom to figure out that a supersized fat laden double burger drenched in cheese and condiments was not the same as eating carrots, right?

Unless you are severely brain damaged or have been living in a cave for the last 20 years, you cannot credibly claim you don’t have the God given capacity to make informed choices about what to stick in your mouth.  And this is the point of my blog.  You have the power to choose.  When you consume a diet of fast food and other tasty and unhealthy treats, it’s a choice.  There is not a diet devil that holds a gun to your head forcing you to eat unhealthy foods.  You make that choice.  Sure, it’s great to eat French fries but if you do it every day, you are gonna get fat.

Or perhaps you agree with Israel Bradley who filed a lawsuit (along with other overweight people who chose to eat a regular diet of fast food) against four fast food companies, claiming his fast food “addiction” forced him to eat a pound of French fries each week. Eating this many fries, he claimed, contributed to his obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.

I guess the food devil forced him to eat French fries, “hold the salad, supersize the fries!” This external locus of control argument maintains we are helpless and not in control of what we put in our mouths. I won’t take responsibility; in fact, I will blame someone else and while I am at it, seek a large monetary award to help ease my suffering and absolve me of any responsibility for poor eating habits that made me fat.

This is the same belief that the Nanny State elite promote. The masses are simply not able to make informed dietary choices without divine Nanny State intervention.  To wit, recall the Los Angeles City Council passed an ordinance in 2008 banning the construction of new fast food restaurants for one year in a 32 square mile area inhabited by 500,000 low-income people (and where obesity was taking a toll on the residents).

Ironically, a subsequent study by Rand Health reviewed the empirical data for the ban and concluded the data did not support it. A Rand brief noted, “Although South Los Angeles residents have a significantly higher body mass index and are more likely to be obese than residents of wealthier sections, the area has fewer, not more, fast food chain restaurants per capita.”  Go figure!

I was recently made aware that the Mayor of New York City (yes, the same one that spent a king’s ransom to get re-elected for a third term) has started an anti-salt legislative campaign. He hopes to control by Nanny State mandate the amount of salt served in restaurants and in packaged foods.

While this same Mayor doesn’t always live by his own health rules, he decides what is good for the rest of us. I don’t need the Nanny State to tell me or food manufacturers how much salt I should consume. I can make informed choices and vote with my wallet and my mouth. Besides, it is a slippery slope.

What next? Maybe the Nanny State will decide I shouldn’t eat pizza with pepperoni. Or maybe they will want to limit my consumption of wine, or coffee, or bacondogs.

Thank you mommy Nanny, but I can make these choices just fine without your uninvited dictates. You see, it all goes back to plain old common sense and the lessons I learned from my mother. “Elbows off the table, sit up straight and eat your vegetables!”

end – 😉