On Tuesday First Lady Michelle Obama joined with Agriculture Department Secretary Tom Vilsak at the White House to announce new USDA rules that will impact every student in every public school in the country, starting next year. The rules will require the phasing out of any advertising or marketing of foods that don’t meet the USDA’s current nutritional standards already in place at public schools. The thinking goes that if they can’t eat it, why advertise it? Said Mrs. Obama:
The idea here is simple: our classrooms should be healthy places where kids aren’t bombarded with ads for junk food.
Because parents are working hard to teach their kids healthy habits at home, their work shouldn’t be undone by unhealthy messages at school.
Vilsack provided the echo chamber: “If you can’t sell it, you ought not to be able to market it.”
The new rules will eliminate ads for Coca Cola, for example, but not for Diet Coke or Dasani. If Coca Cola has paid to have a scoreboard put up at a school — with its advertising on it — it won’t have to be torn down immediately but can stay in place until it’s upgraded with a new one. Ads for junk foods, such as candy bars, potato chips, and other treats deemed to be unhealthy by the FDA would be banned, no matter where they now might appear: banners, paper cups and napkins, wall posters, menu boards, anywhere the kids might be encouraged to indulge in such illegal behavior. At the moment, off-site events, such as fundraisers for the schools, would not be affected: The kids are still free to indulge in all manner of illegal eating there, without interference by the federal food police.
The movement to extend government control to children’s eating habits gained purchase in 2006 with an initiative by the Clinton Foundation to limit school drink sales to water, unsweetened fruit juice, and low-fat or non-fat milk (flavored or unflavored) in elementary and middle schools. Diet and sports drinks would be allowed in middle and high schools. From there the Center for Disease Control (CDC) took over, studying obesity in young people and concluding not only that kids are getting fatter, but providing the reasons why: genetic makeup, behavioral patterns, activity levels, and the environment. The CDC went on to warn of all manner of potential disasters awaiting kids as they matured, including asthma, hepatic steatosis (a food bureaucrat’s phrase for “fatty liver”), sleep apnea, and type 2 diabetes.
The CDC concluded that nearly one in five children between ages 6 and 19 are obese, while one in three are overweight. If something isn’t done, according to the CDC, children will have shorter lifespans than their parents.
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