The Obama administration is committed to bringing more government into the lives of Americans. First lady Michelle Obama grabbed the spotlight Monday at the District's Harriet Tubman Elementary School to promote an anti-obesity initiative in service of this goal. She seeks to shift responsibility for feeding America's children away from parents and into the hands of Washington bureaucrats.
Declaring childhood breakfast, lunch and dinner menu options an issue of national security, Mrs. Obama asserted, "We can't just leave it up to the parents." On the one hand, she argues that 31 million children would go hungry without a free-lunch program. On the other, the wards of the government plate are increasingly obese. To combat this supposed crisis, President Obama on Monday signed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act into law, broadening the federal reach into cafeterias nationwide. The measure even adds dinner options to the school lunch program so some lucky tots will count on Uncle Sam for each and every meal.
According to sample menus provided by the White House, dining will include exciting options such as broccoli, cauliflower, refried beans, grape tomatoes and whole-wheat cheese pizza. Putting a bland, flavorless bureaucracy in charge of the kitchen may actually be effective in thinning America's children - by producing meals no child will want to eat. Mrs. Obama and her allies will decide what's best for everyone else.
The dietary leftists insist that forcing everyone to follow the nutritional fads of the moment will create a health utopia. One day the enemy is butter, another it's trans fat, another it's eggs, and another it's salt. These food items are merely scapegoats. It doesn't matter whether kids eat only from a menu of free-range, organic food from a sustainable, "fair trade" commune. If Johnny doesn't have the discipline to put down the fork, he's going to get fat. Of course, self-control and discipline are the last things government is qualified to teach.
That hasn't stopped the left-coast radicals who have taken up the anti-obesity war cry from harassing firms like McDonald's, which succeed in the free market by meeting the needs of millions of families nationwide. Those who eat under the golden arches do so of their own free choice, and that irks California's bureaucrats. San Francisco voted in November to outlaw the Happy Meal, following the lead of Santa Clara County, which adopted a ban in May.
The impulse to micromanage the habits of others is nothing new. In the 1920s, it was a crime to have a nice glass of wine or a cold beer with dinner. The teetotalers felt an irresistible need to "do something" about the perceived problem of demon rum. In the case of obesity, the so-called problem is very much an illusion. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Protection, the average height of Americans has increased by an inch since the 1960s. That's a sign of proper nourishment. While average weight increased by 24 pounds over the same period, we're all living an average of eight years longer. That's a sign of good health.
The bottom line is that Americans can take care of themselves just fine without help from Mrs. Obama. It doesn't take a village to solve a public health crisis that doesn't exist.
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