Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Obesity Fix?

Michelle Obama yesterday announced a comprehensive plan to fight childhood obesity. This is, of course, a good thing. But will it work? I am skeptical.

Why? Because like so many problems in our society, her solution only only nips at the weeds instead of uprooting them. They're just going to grow right back up again.

Yes, reconstituting school lunches, encouraging more exercise and discouraging soda consumption are all laudable. But they will only go so far because the root causes of childhood obesity are government subsidies that encourage overproduction of corn and soybeans, aggressive, irresponsible marketing to kids by Big Food and Americans' loss of the ability and knowledge to cook and bake (constantly encouraged by Big Food marketing).

I'm not saying that Michele shouldn't be doing what she's doing, but she is plowing the ocean. Real progress will not occur without fundamental changes to government policy, especially abolition or radical restructuring of agricultural subsidies that enrich and empower agribusiness at the expense of farmers and encourage production of salty, sugary, fatty processed foods that make people obese.

I am a huge fan of Barack and Michelle. I ardently believed and still hope (remember hope?) that they will fundamentally change the course of America and usher in a better day. But in food as with so many things, the Obamas go for half measures, modest change around the edges, when the big dramatic measures are desperately need. Instead of saying that agricultural subsidies, especially for corn, should end because they waste taxpayer money, enrich a handful of huge corporations, encourage destructive land practices and make people fat, the Obamas want chicken nuggets with less sodium.

Disappointing. But I will keep hoping. I have no choice.

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