The mindless Obama bashing by Republicans has sunk to new depths this week, as they try to undermine Michelle Obama’s healthy school-lunch standards. Keeping children healthy shouldn’t be a partisan issue, but if the First Lady had spoken in favor of oxygen, the GOP would have campaigned for carbon dioxide. When something as innocuous as healthy school lunch programs become controversial, it represents hyper partisanship at its most nauseating. It is why Washington repulses most Americans and only 22-percent of voters say Congress deserves to be reelected.
Beyond visceral opposition to anything Obama, the GOP is showing the moral degradation of their unfettered free market policies. In their small minds, schoolchildren are just another market to be exploited to turn profits. This is why a House Appropriations Committee is expected to take up a bill that would allow schools to apply for waivers from the federally mandated health standards if the school’s food program has recorded a financial loss for six months in a row. The Senate Appropriations Committee may take up a similar proposal Thursday.
Welcome to the moral sewer of GOP-style privatization, where the Republicans and their corporate masters are trying to balance flabby budgets on the rotund backs of our flabby children. And, if you have been shopping at big box stores in the conservative suburbs, you quickly learn that it is the Republican youth whose health is most imperiled by poor eating habits. These kids waddle alongside their portly parents who teach them that Froot Loops have some relation to actual fruit and corn dogs are vegetables.
Does our family values Congress give a damn about schoolchildren? In 2011, they adopted special rules trumpeted by the food industry to permit pizza, because of its tomato sauce, to be counted as a vegetable, and loosened planned restrictions on the number of times a week that french fries could be offered to students. If Congress is going to shill for the makers of carnival food, why don’t they include sticks of fried butter and funnel cake to create well-rounded diets?
We have a huge childhood obesity problem in this country. A new report published in JAMA Pediatrics found that 17.3 percent of children ages 2 to 19 were obese in 2011 to 2012. More than 100 national, state and local nutrition and child advocacy organizations — including the American Pediatric Society, Children’s Defense Fund and Healthy Schools Campaign — circulated a letter asking lawmakers to fight the waiver request.
Still, these alarming statistics haven’t stopped Republicans and their friends in the food industry from trying to subvert healthy standards. For example, The School Nutrition Association has received donations from, and is in bed with, the processed-food makers of frozen pizza and agribusiness.
Some argue that cafeterias won’t turn a profit by serving healthy food because students will get their junk food fix by eating lunch at fast food joints across the street. My response is, so what? If the primary motive of schools is turning a profit by peddling harmful products, why don’t they cut to the chase and start selling cigarettes and beer in vending machines?
School officials and lawmakers need to get their priorities straight. What truly matters is teaching young people what classifies as healthy food and how to eat properly. Youth who participate in healthy eating will feel better and find that they are more successful in their studies. Those who opt to eat junk food at alternative venues will at least have been educated on healthier diets. When the time comes later on in life for a diet and lifestyle change, the knowledge they gained in school will help them successfully make the transition.
“I think the possibility that kids are becoming more severely obese when they are younger, they are going to become sicker as younger adults,” Dr. Asheley Cockrell Skinner, the lead author of this study and assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, told CBS News. “We know with diabetes the younger you start the harder is to manage it. It makes me worry about what’s happening in their bodes that’s going to follow them into a adulthood.”
If Obama-haters sabotage these eating standards they are not saving us money. They are simply is kicking the can down the road so taxpayers have to foot the bill later for higher healthcare costs. This strategy is penny wise and many pounds foolish. Public education should be about learning, not seducing youth into obesity and early death for short-term corporate profits.
Wayne Besen is a columnist and author of the book “Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth.”