When’s the last time you shuffled home from work, kicked off those heels, poured yourself a nice glass of pinot noir, and feasted on a heaping plate of…chicken nuggets. Or tater tots. Or hot dogs, microwaved cheese pizza, or processed, deep-fried fish patties.
I’m going to bet it probably hasn’t happened for while, if ever. But what about your kids? Sans the pinot noir, of course, your children are likely chowing down on a bevy of deep fried, nutrient depleted foods on a daily basis. “Not at my house,” you say, “We only eat healthful, wholesome foods in our home!” But what about at school?
When’s the last time you really looked at the lunch menu for your child’s school?
And if you have perused that menu and are still allowing your children to eat school lunches, please, pray tell, explain in the comments below exactly what part of the this school lunch looks healthful or wholesome? A collection of hardly identifiable foods in varying shades of orange – it’s a surprise today’s youth haven’t morphed into Oompa Loompas.
The only acceptable consumables on that tray are the orange and the milk. And let’s be honest here, of all you parents out there, how many of your children are taking the time to peel and eat that orange instead of just noshing on some more tater tots?
I think we can all agree that deep fried chicken nuggets, deep fried tater tots, and chocolate chip cookies do not a balanced meal make. It is for this reason, in particular, that I don’t understand Sarah Palin’s recent jab at the Obama Administration, and the First Lady specifically, over the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act recently passed with the 2010 Child Nutrition Reauthorization and Michelle’s Let’s Move campaign. All political leanings aside, what mother doesn’t want their children to be healthy, well nourished, and disease free? Apparently Palin, as reported by various news sources in the last week, takes issue with Michelle Obama’s meddling on her new TV show on TLC:
“Where are the s'mores ingredients? This is in honor of Michelle Obama, who said the other day we should not have dessert.”
This was in reference to the First Lady’s Let’s Move campaign that aims to reduce the prevalence of childhood obesity within the country. According to Palin, Let’s Move and the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act infringes upon American’s “God-given rights to make our own decisions.”
"Take her anti-obesity thing that she is on. She is on this kick, right. What she is telling us is she cannot trust parents to make decisions for their own children, for their own families in what we should eat," Palin said on Laura Ingraham's national radio show.
"Instead of a government thinking that they need to take over and make decisions for us according to some politician or politician's wife's priorities, just leave us alone, get off our back, and allow us as individuals to exercise our own God-given rights to make our own decisions and then our country gets back on the right track."
The clinical studies and research performed over the last decade have a message for Palin and others of that ilk: Parents aren’t doing their jobs – kids are getting fatter, unhealthier, and for the first time in recorded history are on track to shorter life spans than their parents due to lifestyle diseases like heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes.
Want some proof that parents haven’t been making the right decisions?
- Obesity is considered the second leading cause of preventable death in the United States.
- People who are significantly overweight or obese often face serious health consequences including increased risk for premature death, risk for other serious health issues, such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and sleep apnea.
- Obesity in US has doubled in the last ten years. For children ages 2-18 the obesity rate has increased 300%. 
- The current generation of children has a projected life expectancy shorter than that of their parents.
I’m not saying that I’m for increased government regulation of our lives. In fact, I’m becoming more Libertarian than anything else – you leave me alone, I’ll leave you alone, and we’ll all be happier. Unfortunately, this approach just isn’t working. I don’t think that parents are intentionally letting their children become overweight, I think that there is a culture of non-communication about what we consider appropriate food for our children – and it’s the children that lose.
Let’s also be clear that no one is telling you what to feed your kids. There are not going to fleets of semis invading the country scooping up all the chicken nuggets and pizza rolls and burning them in the streets. The Let’s Move campaign is simply trying to inform people about what is going on in our country and what we can do, as individuals, to lead healthier lives for ourselves and our families. It’s information to help you decide what foods you want to eat and the consequences of those decisions. What’s wrong with a little information?
Some tips excerpted from the Let’s Move “Healthy Families” section:
- Kids should eat five fruits and vegetables per day
- Bake or grill instead of fry
- Drink low-fat milk or water instead of sodas
- Replace desserts like ice cream and cake with fruit-based desserts
These aren’t exactly revolutionary ideas, folks. Isn’t this the kind of advice most people should be taking into consideration already?
Furthermore the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, while not perfect, is also not attempting to seize control of your dietary choices a la Hal 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey. The main goals of the act are:
When schools adhere to the nutritional requirements as set forth by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans they are eligible to receive an additional reimbursement of 6 cents per meal. It may not seem like much, but there are an average of 30 million school lunches sold daily. According to my math, that’s $1.8 million dollars – something our capitalist country can really appreciate.
Funds will be allocated to schools to cultivate gardens on school property to teach children about growing food and the vegetables produced will be used in the school cafeterias. This can also include networking with local farmers to bring produce into classrooms to teach students about the direct link between food and their lives.
Vending Machine Regulations
Under the act, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack now has the authority to require foods sold in vending machines on school grounds to maintain certain dietary guidelines. This could mean no more skipping the school lunch line and eating sodas and potato chips for lunch.
Free or Reduced-Price Meals in High-Poverty Regions
This provision makes it easier for children of low-income families to receive free or reduced-price meals. It eliminates the paper application step of the process in an effort to increase access to meals for these children.
Under the act, water must be available and free of charge during all school meal times.
Free Meals for Foster Children
Foster children will no longer have to prove their income to qualify for free school meals, they will be automatically eligible for the program.
A typical lunch before the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act? Pizza sticks with marinara sauce, a banana, raisins, and whole milk.
A typical lunch after the act? Whole Wheat spaghetti with meat sauce and a whole wheat roll, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, low-fat ranch dip, kiwi halves, and low-fat milk.
Check out more of the menu here.
Again, these aren’t exactly radical ideas. Free water available at all meal times? Not making foster children prove they don’t have any money to get lunch? Rewarding schools who do the right thing with bigger reimbursements?
I’m sorry, Mrs. Palin, I’m afraid I don’t see anywhere in here where the government is taking away your dessert.
To check out more information associated with the 2010 Child Nutrition Reauthorization act click here.
 Katz, N. (November 30, 2010). Sarah Palin: Americans have “God-given right” to be fat? CBS News Healthwatch. http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504763_162-20024104-10391704.html
 As cited in DiRamio, C. (n.d.) Obesity fact sheet. Allergan. http://www.allergan.com/ASSETS/PDF/OBESITY_FACT_SHEET.PDF
 Rush-Wilson, T. C. (2008). The Crisis of Childhood Obesity: What You Can Do. Pediatrics for Parents, 24(1), 3-5. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.