We all wish former President Bill Clinton a quick recovery from the medical procedure in which two stents were inserted in a single artery. That, following his 2004 quadruple bypass, when four arteries were 90 percent clogged.
We’re told that gone are Clinton’s presidential days, when his dietary indulgences included regular binges on Big Macs. But it seems that Washington is still in the business of supersizing government regulations and union power over what kids eat in our public schools.
On the one hand, I want genuinely to commend first lady Michelle Obama for her passion to launch her campaign against childhood obesity, "Let’s Move." In particular, I like the part that seeks to "mobilize public and private sector resources … to help kids be more active, eat better, and get healthy."
My concern, however, is that the first lady’s nutritional quests, like Washington’s health care crusade, ultimately will lead to more big-government and union-based solutions, as well as enact more faulty legislation like the 1966 Child Nutrition Act, which the Obama administration is seeking to update, or "overhaul." (Of course, update and overhaul in government translates into upgrade and expand; you can bet your last tax dollar on it.)
And sure enough, incorporated in the first lady’s health initiative is the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act: "The Administration is requesting an historic investment of an additional $10 billion over ten years starting in 2011 to improve the quality of the National School Lunch and Breakfast program."
At first glance, that sounds like a no-brainer. Who doesn’t want to care for neglected kids? But the Child Nutrition Act goes so much further than providing meals for those in poverty. It has become another cover for increasing big government and union power, with the Service Employees International Union being one of the biggest beneficiaries.
Rather than rubber-stamp that 44-year-old piece of legislation, which has been renewed every five years ever since by both Republican and Democratic administrations, Washington needs to reconsider every facet of its tenets and find a better way forward by giving back to the American people more of their power over our children’s well-being. Washington needs to rewrite and reduce, not renew and expand, the Child Nutrition Act.
The first reason for that is the Child Nutrition Act is archaic in nutritional advice. Most of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s current school nutrition standards were developed in the 1970s and are antiquated. USDA standards still do not consider french fries, snack cakes or even candy bars to be junk foods in schools. In 2008, the National School Lunch Program, the nation’s second-largest food assistance program, provided more than 205 million after-school snacks in schools across the country — and you can bet those weren’t carrots.
The second reason that the Child Nutrition Act needs to be scrapped is that it’s impotent in its ability to reduce child obesity. It’s actually greatly contributed to the increase in obesity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood and teen obesity in the U.S. has tripled over the past 30 years. And one-third of U.S. children are now overweight or obese — what the USDA even calls "an epidemic."
Despite Washington’s repeated attempts — e.g., the National School Lunch Program, started in 1946; the Child Nutrition Act, started in 1966; the Healthy Meals for Healthy Americans Act of 1994; and the Healthy People 2010 objectives, in 2001, which were to focus specifically on the school nutrition environment — our children are more obese and less healthy than they’ve been at any other time in our nation’s history.
Most importantly, if obesity among our kids has tripled in the same 30 years that government intervention has tried to improve our children’s nutrition and fitness, do we really think more government intervention is the answer?
If the first lady wants to make a real difference in the country, she should help to establish town hall meetings in every community, which bring parents and community heads together to strategize and implement health plans for themselves. I’m sure she and her teams could actually accomplish much of that by webcasts from their own offices.
Remember when parents and guardians used to take care of their own kids? It’s not too late. Even the first lady recently confessed, "I had to lead our family to a different way," which included paying more attention to portion size, eating more fruits and vegetables, drinking more water, limiting their television watching, increasing their physical activity, etc.
Most preventive health care doesn’t cost a thing or need government intervention. You can start by going online to a host of Web sites, such as http://KidsHealth.org, to learn more about your child’s diet and health. Dr. Don Colbert also has some great health articles on childhood nutrition, at http://www.DrColbert.com.
My concern for America’s health is also why I am formally announcing today that starting in the fall of 2010, I will be writing a new weekly health column, called "C-Force," through Creators Syndicate in Los Angeles, in addition to my weekly cultural column.
Maybe the first lady should add that new column to her recommended list of health tools for schools and communities across the nation.