August 3 2010
Feeding a child is one of the most basic parental responsibilities, yet first lady Michelle Obama wishes to liberate parents from this fundamental role by urging them to rely on the public schools to feed their children.
In this op-ed in the Washington Post, the first lady pushes for congressional passage of the Child Nutrition Act, a bill that would not only increase funding for the already-wasteful and badly managed school-lunch program but relax eligibility requirements so that more children can be enrolled. It's clear that Michelle Obama, like her husband, sees government as the great fixer. In this case, the fix is simple: The more often a child eats a government-provided meal, the healthier he or she will be.
But the first lady isn't considering a lot of newer research on childhood obesity. Just a few months ago, Ohio State University released a major study that found that children are at a lower risk for obesity if they observe three easy rules: eat dinner with their families, get adequate sleep at night, and watch less television. All of these activities fall under the control of parents - not schools, and not government.
Nor is Mrs. Obama considering her own experience: When publicly discussing her own daughters' weight issues, she has repeatedly said that it was her intervention that turned the problem around. It wasn't a healthy school-provided lunch, a physical-education program, or gardening lessons. The thing that made the difference was her own personal involvement: her insistence they watch less television, switch to skim milk, and get more exercise. She also talked to them about how to make better food choices.
If this country is going to get serious about childhood obesity, we need to detangle food and the public schools and get back to better parenting - basic parenting. Government doesn't do anything well, least of all cooking.
Michelle Obama has missed a golden opportunity to encourage parents to get back to the basics and pack their kid a lunch.