Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Michelle-O's Obesity Battle: Sound Policy Or Too Much Gubb'ment?!?

After a pretty quiet first year as First Lady, Michelle Obama finally announced her signature initiative, aimed at curbing childhood obesity back in February. The "Let's Move" campaign aims to fight this health epidemic in many ways from encouraging kids to exercise more, to giving tax credits for grocers who put stores in "food deserts". But perhaps the most controversial push is one that just wielded its first fruits yesterday, and predictably, the usual suspects are already complaining that it's a case of Big Brother telling your kids what to eat.
In a direct response to Michelle Obama's declared war on childhood obesity, an alliance of major food manufacturers on Monday pledged to introduce new, more healthful options, cut portion sizes and trim calories in existing products.

The Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, a coalition including Campbell Soup, Coca-Cola, General Mills, Kellogg, Kraft Foods and PepsiCo, will slash 1 trillion calories by the end of 2012 and 1.5 trillion calories by the end of 2015. The 16 members make 20-25 percent of food

The announcement is one of the first substantial results of the first lady's "Let's Move!" campaign, which aims to end childhood obesity within a generation. The industry's pledge comes two months after Obama urged food corporations "to move farther, faster" and less than a week after the White House announced the findings of its Childhood Obesity Task Force.

The industry has been under pressure from the first lady and from state and local governments considering junk-food taxes and other anti-obesity measures.

Missing from the announcement were any specifics on the new products or cuts that will be made to existing items. But White House officials stressed that the companies will be held accountable.
I'm not really sure how/why anyone thinks manufacturing healthier food options is such a problem. No, removing junk food from school vending machines, and creating low calorie Ho Ho's isn't going to solve the obesity crisis all by itself. Getting companies to offer more healthy food will likely not hurt their bottom lines, and nobody is going to mandate what foods parents put in their kids' mouths. That's not even legally possible. So relax and eat your Cheetos, middle America. Barack isn't coming for your guns, and Michelle isn't coming for your Krisy Kremes.

When 1/3 of all kids are overweight, there's a problem that needs to be addressed, and I applaud the First Lady for doing something to help.

Question: Does Michelle Obama's effort to get companies to make healthier food seem like sound policy to you, or is it yet another example of the tyranny of gubb'ment oversight?

Michelle Obama applauds food industry group's pledge to trim calories [WashPost]

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