Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Michelle Obama: Kids Need To Get Their “Palates Adjusted” To Government-Approved Diets

Michelle Obama’s war on fat kids continues, this time suggesting that Americans can’t just eat what they want. We need to get their palates adjusted to what the government wants them to eat.

“Childhood obesity is one of my signature issues,” she said. “Our goal is to eliminate childhood obesity in a generation. And our view is that if we teach young people early about how to eat, and we give them a connection to the food that they eat, that they’re more excited and interesting, and interested, in what’s going on, and that in turn opens up a broader conversation about nutrition and health and movement–but also deeper issues of access and affordability, which are some of the primary causes of obesity. Because many of our communities–in underserved communities, kids aren’t growing up with vegetables because there are no grocery stores.

“People don’t have that connection,” Mrs. Obama said to her fellow panelists, who included a group of workers and student interns at the organic farm. “And we’re finding, through our contact with kids, that it is in fact working–like you guys: You now eat vegetables. You actually know what arugula is. And you eat it.”

One of the farm’s workers then told Mrs. Obama that arugula was a “favorite” of his.

“That’s right,” said Mrs. Obama. “My favorite, too. Arugula and steak. I like it a lot. That’s good stuff.”

Mrs. Obama then segued back to the importance of properly adjusting the palates of children.

“But we find the same thing is true with young kids, and if they get their palates adjusted to those very interesting flavors, they stay connected,” she said.

I think it’s interesting that Michele Obama says that the problem is a lack of access to vegetables, etc. That must be that “food deserts” thing the USDA was hyping a few months ago. Which was ridiculous. According to the USDA, I live on the edge of a food desert. And yet, I also live just two blocks from two separate, large grocery stores each of which has an excellent produce section.

To the extent that there’s a childhood obesity problem, and I don’t think it’s nearly the problem some claim it is, it’s probably because in America expenditures on food are the lowest (as a percentage of overall household expenditures) in the world:

On one hand, low food prices are not a bad thing, and the fact that they’re such a small part of expenditures speaks to just how affluent we are as Americans compared to the rest of the world. On the other hand, it’s likely a reflection of just how thoroughly ag subsidies (among other government policies) have distorted food markets.

If we want to address obesity issues, and I maintain that obesity is a personal problem not a public policy problem, then stop ag subsidies. Ending the government’s distortions of the food markets would go further to address obesity than any of the government’s efforts to force us into eating certain diets.