Reading Michelle Obama’s rant about Trump dismantling her dietary prescriptions for millions of school children, it suddenly dawned me that she might have contributed significantly to her target’s election as president.
Michelle Obama’s plan was not about goals or education but about rules, the failure to follow which could result in a loss of federal funding. Telling parents what to eat is dangerous enough, telling millions of kids could be worse, Imagine the complaints – some of which evolved into boycotts – that parents have heard about the wife of the Democratic president.
I come at this with some background. I was working on an organic farm as a teenager over six decades ago. Two years before Silent Spring, my parents successfully sued the Central Maine Power Company for spraying pesticides on their property which is now a public agriculture center for which I have served as president and a longtime board member.
So I am not indifferent to Michelle Obama’s concerns. But one of the things I learned both from Maine farmers and from urban politics was that it’s okay to urge people to vote for someone but don’t tell them how to live their lives. Demonstrate, encourage and practice good things, but don’t pontificate about them or prescribe them.
The Obama food fiasco is, for example, closely related to the liberal failure to form effective alliances on gun issues. Once you appear to others as a self-righteous prig, you start to fail at your goal.
Further, it’s not smart to declare certainty where there isn’t. For example, how does Mrs. Obama explain the healthy lives of Italians despite eating a lot of white bread and lasagna?
According to CNN, “the School Nutrition Association, released recommendations to scale back federal nutrition standards she championed and were set under the Obama administration. The group is a national nonprofit professional organization representing over 57,000 members in the school food service industry, per its website. The organization called for ‘practical flexibility under federal nutrition standards to prepare healthy, appealing meals,’ specifically recommending that the US Department of Agriculture allow saltier foods that would have otherwise been allowed and cutting current whole grain requirements in half.
“‘Overly prescriptive regulations have resulted in unintended consequences, including reduced student lunch participation, higher costs and food waste. Federal nutrition standards should be modified to help school menu planners manage these challenges and prepare nutritious meals that appeal to diverse student tastes,’” the association said in its recommendations”
Reported Modern Healthcare:
“I would have to say that it’s been an unqualified failure,” Dr. Neal Barnard, founder and president of nutrition advocacy organization Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, said of the “Let’s Move” campaign. “I would certainly give (Obama) credit for raising the profile of the issue. Where I think they went wrong is that they ended up doing more harm than good by convincing Americans that the causes of it were things that were completely fictional.”
Barnard felt the campaign has focused too much of its attention toward reducing sugar intake and not enough to limiting consumption of cheese, meat and grains. Others also have pointed out the childhood obesity rate has not gone down since the start of “Let’s Move.”
And, adds the Washington Times:
The National School Lunch Program saw a sharp decline in participation once the healthy standards went into effect during the 2012-2013 school year. A total of 1,086,000 students stopped buying school lunch, after participation had increased steadily for nearly a decade.
The report found that 321 districts left the National School Lunch Program altogether, many of which cited the new standards as a factor.
The standards forced some schools to stop serving peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and led middle school and high school students to opt for vending machines or buying food off campus to avoid the lunch line.
The standards brought “negative student reactions.” In one case, middle school and high school students organized a three-week boycott after their school changed their sandwiches to comply with the rules.
But we don’t have to argue over proper diets to realize that having the White House decide what millions of kids eat every day is not such a great idea. I gave up drinking and smoking decades ago but my political instincts taught me not to proselytize on such topics. I have also outlived all the males in three generations of my family except for one uncle and a grandfather but no one, and certainly not Michelle Obama, has asked me for my secrets. If they did I would tell them simply that I have used both virtue and sin in moderation in the hope that anything I do right won’t annoy others and what I do wrong won’t harm me or them too much.
But we live in time when, among either conservatives or liberals, self-righteousness is sadly believed to be a major tool of conversion. Unfortunately, the right is better at this deception and as a result when someone like Michalle Obama tries it, she just helps to elect someone like Trump.