The Obama Administration has gone nuts. Literally. The czars fiddle with peanut vending machines while Washington burns ever deeper into multi-trillion dollar debt.  But oh, it’s for the children. Ron Nixon, at the NY Times:

“The government’s attempt to reduce childhood obesity is moving from the school cafeteria to the vending machines. The Obama administration is working on setting nutritional standards for foods that children can buy outside the cafeteria.”

I’ve written about childhood obesity before, and will end this post with exactly the same conclusions. Repetitive, I know, but what else can one do to combat ever-more ludicrous government meddling and overreach?  

“Nutritionists say that school vending machines stocked with potato chips, cookies and sugary soft drinks contribute to childhood obesity, which has more than tripled in the past 30 years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that about one in every five children are [sic] obese.”

Oh my! Allow me to communicate some free health advice: food doesn’t cause obesity; overeating does. Eating cookies per se will not make a child fat; eating too many of them, too often, almost certainly will. The government of the United States (or any other nation) cannot do much to alter this fact. Not even by instituting federal guidelines (which are never free, as they come weighed down by the exorbitant salaries of indecent numbers of legislators and bureaucrats) regarding the contents of vending machines.

When these new guidelines kick in, for example, the nuts that children buy in vending machines will be dry-roasted, not oily and salted. (Goodness, what am I saying? Nuts have long been banned from schools, but the basic principle applies.) The regulations seek to reduce fat, sugar and salt content in snack food. Good on them, but anyone who thinks that this will make an appreciable difference is naively optimistic.

Where do these “one in five” overweight kids come from, pray tell? Statistics cite the omnipresence of obese children as if they rain from the skies every fortnight or so. They come from families, usually where one if not both parents is obese. By all means, forbid the sale of oily, salty snacks from the school vending machine. But until children are spending 24 hours a day in state-run institutions, the government cannot ultimately control what children ingest.

Which begs the question: at what point does “outside the cafeteria” actually stop? Will federal officers from the Department Of Pediatric Eating covertly follow your child home to ensure he won’t stop at Kandy-mart and buy junk food? Maybe Big Brother could somehow monitor all children’s purchases through hidden cameras or implanted micro-chips (baked, not fried), or possibly outlaw the use of cash, and implement a debit-card system that alerts a federal nutrition czar every time someone under 18 purchases a candy bar in America. Maybe it would be best to make junk food completely illegal? No, because then pushers would be peddling black market salty and sugary snacks in school, in addition to all the illegal drugs currently available.

Nixon’s article claims that the regulations are controversial, pitting “parents and health advocates” against the (evil-by-implication) food industry. Who says the groups are mutually exclusive? As an erstwhile farmer and avid gardener, I feel part of the “food industry.” As a parent, I am most certainly a health advocate. But when it comes to problems facing our children, I am more of a homegrown versus government-mandated solutions person. 

Moreover, whether it’s window dressing or not, food companies are toeing the line, feeling compelled to make “voluntary” changes.

“Christopher Gindlesperger, director of communications for the American Beverage Association, whose members include Coca-Cola and Pepsi, said his industry had also worked with schools to reduce or eliminate sugary drinks and replace them with healthier alternatives.

“‘Our members have voluntarily reduced the calories in drinks shipped to schools by 88 percent and stopped offering full-calorie soft drinks in school vending machines,’ Mr. Gindlesperger said.

“But a study in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine released this month shows that despite industry efforts and those of others, snacking behavior among children remains largely unchanged.”

Well, duh.

Kids will be kids. I’ve never met one that didn’t like candy, soda pop and potato chips. Even when their parents are organic/hippie types who ban the stuff entirely from their homes (I’ve known many. When there’s a party and Mom’s distracted, the kids sidle up to the goodies table and gorge.)

It’s a little thing that some of us call weakness and some of us call fallen human nature; regardless, it needs to be curbed on a pretty regular basis for our own good. But the control has to come from within.

Ultimately the choice of which products we buy (and eat) is up to us.

All questions (and there are many) of public education aside, we parents are more or less free to teach our values to our children. Why do we pretend to be so helpless in the face of what are essentially basic choices? Well, maybe because ‘taking responsibility’ is basically difficult. Much easier to blame Big Food for making me addicted to Big Macs and look to Big Brother to save me from my Big Appetite and my even Bigger Poor Parenting Choices.

The desire to live a healthy lifestyle; living and teaching moderation and self-control: these are concepts that families and/or principle caregivers must embrace. Without healthy choices being made (and strong example being given) at this level, government initiatives are dead in the water—or stuck in the low-fat tofu vending machine. 

Mariette Ulrich is a homemaker and freelance writer. She lives in western Canada with her husband and six of their seven children. Mariette holds an Honours B.A. in English Literature...