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Off the Reservation: Obesity In America


First Lady Michelle Obama is leading the charge against obesity in the United States by establishing a program entitled “Let’s Move.” It’s a government sponsored effort to establish a public/private partnership that encourages America to work together and get our young people moving and eating right. The First Lady even went so far as to convince her husband to sign a memorandum that organizes a committee to hold meetings in order to come up with a report that talks about obesity. “A 90-day plan to allow optimal coordination” I think is how the president put it.

If you sense sarcasm dripping from these words like special sauce oozing over the side of two all beef patties then there’s a prize in your happy meal. It’s not that I have a problem with ceremonial gestures-publicity and good form are part of any positive initiative-it’s just that we are so far afield from pure and beneficial food sources in this country that any attempts to regulate America’s diet is destined for failure.


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Advocating for clean, slow food has been part of this newspaper’s mission for years, which makes criticizing an anti-obesity program difficult and counterintuitive. But examining this issue closely is a window into how the Obama administration approaches serious issues and why so many initiatives are failing.

We have attacked the banking meltdown by continuing to throw money at banks instead of addressing the rampant deregulation that allowed the crisis to spiral to unprecedented depths. The administration and Congress attacked the healthcare plan by proposing that more people receive insurance instead of streamlining the process of administering care and preventing more people from falling ill. Even Secretary of State Clinton is spanning the globe and putting her fingers in the dam instead of establishing a discernible foreign policy for this administration.

Let’s Move as a concept is as wonderful as bailing out banks, reforming healthcare and chasing the Taliban but it adopts the same systemic principle of attacking symptoms instead of root causes. When it comes to childhood obesity no amount of additional pressure on the school districts will put the toothpaste back into the tube.

My father in law always preaches that it matters little who is in charge at the top because it’s the bureaucrats who really run everything. If the Obama administration wants to shift the food paradigm in this nation it needs to understand why Americans no longer relate to our food supply. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) determines what food is grown and how it’s used in this country and The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determines what ingredients and chemicals are allowed in our food. I will refrain at this point from exhaustively pointing out how these two agencies are more responsible for poisoning the American food supply and contributing to childhood obesity than any other influence. I would only encourage anyone, everyone, to read Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

The point is that we have guns-a-blazing again at the parents and teachers when Sesame Street is brought to you by McDonald’s. Obesity, like the financial meltdown, high insurance premiums and war, is merely a symptom of failed policies. Michelle Obama need look no further than the bureaucratic administrations her husband now controls to find the root cause of obesity in America. Instead of asking the schools to serve better food, we need to make better food available.

If you wish to comment on “Off the Reservation,” send your message to jmorey@longislandpress.com.

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