The first lady has made the reduction of childhood obesity and promotion of healthful foods her signature objective, and for that, remarkably, she has run afoul of the babbling bellyachers.
“Get away from my French fries, Mrs. Obama,” advised Glenn Beck. “First politician that comes up to me with a carrot stick, I’ve got a place for it. And it’s not in my tummy.” Sarah Palin, for her part, has accused Michelle Obama of telling Americans they “should not have dessert.”
Why the animus toward root vegetables, and why the misrepresentations? The first lady has not decreed French fries and dessert verboten, nor is she some nanny-state-loving killjoy. But she is rightly concerned that many American children eat French fries, dessert and processed foods in place of nutritive fare, and that the results are worrisome. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that childhood obesity levels more than tripled between 1980 and 2000; today, nearly one in three American children is either overweight or obese. Last year a study in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that the heaviest children were more than twice as likely as the thinnest to die before age 55.
At the very least, the federal government should not contribute to this problem. But through the national school lunch program — a conveyor belt of substandard, fatty foods, with nary a green leaf in sight — it has for decades been doing just that.