We all wish former President Bill Clinton a quick recovery from his medical procedure Thursday in which two stents were inserted in a single artery. That procedure followed his 2004 quadruple bypass in which four arteries were 90 percent clogged.
We’re told gone are the days during Clinton’s presidency when his dietary indulgences included regular binges on Big Macs. But it seems that Washington is still in the business of super-sizing government regulations and union power over what kids eat in our public schools.
On the one hand, I want genuinely to commend the first lady, Michelle Obama, for the passion to launch her campaign against childhood obesity, “Let’s Move!” In particular, I like that section 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, will ultimately lead to enabling more bad nutritional trends via 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 that one.)
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 10 years starting in 2011 to improve the quality of the National School Lunch and Breakfast program …”
At first glance, it sounds like a no-brainer. Who doesn’t want to care for kids, especially the poor ones? But the Child Nutrition Act goes so much further than providing their meals. It has now become another cover for increasing big government and union power, with the Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, being one of the biggest beneficiaries.
If the Obama administration has its way, the Child Nutrition Act will become one more tentacle of an over-reaching federal government and nanny state that now wants to control the kitchens of America. The government already controls what your children learn (and don’t learn) in public schools – why not give them more control over what they eat? (That is one more reason why my wife, Gena, and I are advocates for private education and homeschooling, where the academics and kitchens are free from government tyranny.)
Rather than rubber-stamping the 45+-year-old piece of legislation, which has been renewed every five years by both Republican and Democrat administrations ever since, Washington needs to reconsider every facet of its tenets and find a better way forward by giving the American people back their power over our children’s well-being. At very most, they need to rewrite and reduce, not renew and expand, the Child Nutrition Act.
The first reason is because the Child Nutrition Act is archaic in nutritional advice. Most of the USDA’s current school nutrition standards were developed in the 1970s and are antiquated, especially in light of recent nutritional science and organic living. The 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 around the country – and you can bet those weren’t apples or carrots.
The second reason that the Child Nutrition Act needs to be scrapped is because it’s impotent in its ability to reduce child obesity. In fact, it’s actually contributed greatly to the increase in obesity statistics. According to the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood and teen obesity in the U.S. has tripled over the last 30 years. And one-third of U.S. children are now overweight or obese – what the USDA even calls an “epidemic.”
Studies have also shown that roughly one-third of all children born in 2000 or later will face chronic obesity-related health problems like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer and asthma. Believe it or not, obesity is also one of the most common disqualifiers for military service. While that’s alarming, I’m not quite certain that translates into a national security problem as Mrs. Obama and the USDA conclude.
Despite Washington’s repeated attempts, like the National School Lunch Program started in 1946, the Child Nutrition Act started in 1966, Healthy Meals for Healthy Americans Act of 1994, and Healthy People Objective in 2001, which was to focus specifically on the school nutrition environment, our children are more obese and less healthy than any other time in our nation’s history. These are the types of health-care legislative decisions that have peppered Washington’s nutritional landscape for decades. And we think more government is the solution? (That reminds me of the video phone call that is circulating the Internet, “What it will be like to order pizza in 2015.“)
So here’s my question: 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? Do the math – it doesn’t add up!
The problem is that, while the federal budget for nutrition and fitness has ballooned, so have America’s kids. The feds spend $15 billion annually already on nutrition in schools, and now they want to spend an additional $10 billion over the next 10 years. Why? Bottom line, because they don’t believe you as parents and guardians, your local communities, churches and school staff are capable of providing the nutritional information or a proper diet to your children. But somehow Congress and the White House are capable and qualified? Do our governmental representatives really look like the type of nutritional gurus you want leading your children’s diets and nutrition?
Will parents and guardians continue to yield every facet of their children’s rearing and well-being to a government, which lives simply by the golden rule: “He who has the gold makes the rules”? Will we continue blindly to follow their bloated bureaucracies and budgets every time they ask, “Trust us?” Are we not enabling the disengaged and deadbeat parents by increasing federal oversight and intervention (nanny state surrogate parenting) over our children’s health?
If the first lady wants to make a real difference in the country, then she should encourage town-hall meetings in every community that bring parents and community heads together to strategize and implement plans for themselves. I’m sure she could actually accomplish much of that by webcasts from her own office.
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. Isn’t that what every parent should be doing? If she did, why can’t most Americans?
Most preventative health care doesn’t cost a thing or need government intervention. You can start by going online to a host of websites like KidsHealth.org and learn more about your child’s diet and health. Dr. Don Colbert also has some great health articles on childhood nutrition.
It is a given: We are what we eat. As Feeding America even noted, “Research indicates that even mild under-nutrition experienced by young children during critical periods of growth impacts the behavior of children, their school performance, and their overall cognitive development.” That alone should fire us up to do better as families.
I’m not talking as an inexperienced government official but as a concerned citizen who has been a nutritional practitioner for more than 50 years. My wife, Gena, is equally passionate about health (if not more so) than I am. This is why, unlike any other treatise I know that addresses how to reawaken America to our founders’ vision and plans for this country, I included a chapter on “Be Fit for the Fight,” in my brand new January 2010 expanded paperback version of my New York Times best-seller, “Black Belt Patriotism.”
My concern for America’s health is also why I am formally announcing today that, starting in fall 2010, I will also be writing a new weekly health column called “C-Force” through Creators Syndicate in Los Angeles, in addition to my regular cultural column. Maybe the first lady should add that new column to her list of recommended health tools distributed to schools and communities across the nation.
In an age where organic foods are making mainstream news and gaining an upper hand on dinner tables and restaurant menus, we all need to fight to be fit and provide better models of wellbeing, instead of waiting for another “government bailout” in the form of socialized health care to rescue us from our declining health. With health-care costs of obesity-related diseases already at $147 billion per year and climbing, isn’t it time we emphasized a health-care system that is more preventative than prescriptive?
I believe the health-care crisis in America begins with Americans, not governmental intervention and bureaucracy that mandates socialized medicine. Our founders agreed. They also never could have imagined government micromanaging civilian diets by creating a Food and Drug Administration or United States Department of Agriculture. Thomas Jefferson, who was already concerned about citizens’ health habits in his time, emphatically believed that more government regulation over our foods and nutritional habits would impair our health. He quipped, “Was the government to prescribe to us our medicine and diet, our bodies would be in such keeping as our souls are now.”
Our founders’ health-care system was a very simple one: Take care of your health. We don’t need to pay billions of dollars through new taxes to provide new programs or universal medical coverage. If anything, I believe the government needs to discover more ways to motivate personal responsibility and disease prevention, encourage the states’ roles as stages for new market-based ideas, and challenge private sectors to seek creative ways to bring down medical costs. Most of all, if we took better care of ourselves, we could reduce our personal and national medical costs and live longer and happier at the same time. If we don’t, we will be bound to live by the words of Benjamin Franklin, “God heals and the doctor takes the fee.”
The fact is that we will never win the culture wars if we don’t first tackle the consumptive wars, because, quite frankly, many of us won’t be here to complete the battles. A revolution is not a sprint, but a marathon, and we must be fit for the fight. It’s that perseverant spirit that not only started our republic but that will resurrect her most endearing principles.
With the 2010 Winter Olympics underway, we’re all reminded of the divine potential of the human body and spirit, and we should renew our commitment to it. As it says even in the Holy Scriptures, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. And everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one. Therefore, I run in such a way, not as without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have proclaimed to others, I myself should be disqualified.” (I Corinthians 9:24-27).