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First lady, socialism linked on same menu

| Thursday, Feb. 10, 2011

The Obama administration has taken on some serious issues -- Afghanistan and Iraq, health care reform and WikiLeaks. But there's one that's taken on unexpected heft.

It's actually Michelle Obama's baby, a healthy-lifestyle initiative called Let's Move. The program targets lifestyle changes to reduce the obesity epidemic in our country. The administration has changed federal guidelines for school meals, meaning that all schools will have to adhere to new menu requirements soon.

Plum Borough School District Food Supervisor Maryann Lazzaro said last month that the changes were needed, that at the current rate, today's children might not outlive their parents because of obesity. National statistics back that up. About 27 percent of Pennsylvanians are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nationally, obesity rates have doubled since 1980. So it's a problem that probably should be addressed sooner than later.

Sounds harmless enough, right?

Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin slammed the initiative, saying that the government is trying to make nutritional decisions for children that should be made by parents. (Just because an idea comes along from the opposite side of the aisle, does it mean you have to slam it• Sheesh.)

It's understood that Palin might use this as a political point, but more surprising is that others agree. This week, when Michelle Obama spoke to restaurant executives to encourage them to offer healthier alternatives and portions for menu items, even more feathers were ruffled.

A friend of mine posted the story about her speech on his Facebook page (yes, now the undisputed pulse of America) and the comments that followed were interesting. Most accused the administration of socialism and of trying to tell them what they can and cannot eat. Those were the tame ones.

Fascinating. At what point did it become a problem for the government to limit our exposure to bad things• There's an extraordinary tax on cigarettes, meant in part to make it more difficult to buy them. Also, drugs such as marijuana, crack and cocaine are illegal. For the most part, we accept that those are bad things that can kill us, and so there's no problem.

News flash: Too much butter and salt can kill you, too. Inactivity leads to heart disease, diabetes and other maladies that can be fatal.

Also, let's remember that there's always access to food that's terrible for you if you need a taste -- and sometimes, you do. There are always fast-food chains and supermarkets. I question how many people would taste their restaurant food and say, "Something's missing here. There aren't enough trans fatty acids in here! What gives?"

The initiative is offering better access to healthy food, not the elimination of the high calories and fat that we crave. In other words, no one is taking the Primanti's sandwich out of anyone's hands, so we can relax.

If there's really any doubt about the obesity epidemic in our schools and among adults, look around. When was the last time you saw a child who was too big for his britches?

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