Yes, I am a child of the 60s and, thus, a fan of campy television programs. The series Lost in Space, which aired on CBS from 1965-68, was one of my favorites. On a family vacation to California, I toured the 20th Century Fox studios and actually walked on the set of the show. One of my favorite characters was the robot who would yell “Danger, Will Robinson!” whenever something bad was about to happen to the young boy on the show. If that robot was around today, he would be yelling “Danger, American consumers, DANGER!”
For the past two weeks, we have been watching both major political parties present their vision of the next 4 years and outline their programs and policies to address America’s biggest issues. Lost in all the coverage and analysis was the vision set forth by First Lady Michelle Obama. It was not included in her speech to the DNC or on the campaign trail, but rather in a magazine interview. When asked what her goal was for a 2nd term, she answered “impact the nature of food in grocery stores” with the aim of cutting sugar, fat and salt.
“With ‘Let’s Move,’ our goal is to end the problem of childhood obesity in a generation,” Mrs. Obama said in an interview for Parade magazine. “And while we’ve seen some very profound cultural shifts, we still have communities that don’t have access to affordable and healthy foods.” So far so good, having access to affordable and healthy is a noble goal. The “Let’s Move” program stresses activity for children, one of the best ways to address health issues in children. But, she went on to say, “We still need to find a way to impact the nature of food in grocery stores, in terms of sugar, fat, and salt.” By now, the Lost in Space robot is blinking and swirling and saying, “Danger, Danger!”
We have already seen how the government has “impacted” the nature of food in public schools, by banning chocolate milk and other food items they say are “bad”. In the name of promoting a healthy diet, some cites have banned certain food groups from the general public. Now it seems that the First Lady wants to move into the grocery store.
In the interview, Mrs. Obama also discussed the challenge of “educating families” on healthy lifestyles in a society where “TV is rampant.” She added, “We need to keep educating families about how to structure a life that is healthy in a society where TV is rampant and communities don’t have enough resources in terms of sports and activities.” Now I am not by nature one who puts a lot of stock in conspiracy theories; but, when I read that, I got very nervous and my Lost in Space robot blew up.
The First Lady’s “Let’s Move!” campaign has published an online guide called “Supermarket Shopping 101” that provides tips for shoppers on the importance of making a list and how to navigate a grocery store. It gives us a glimpse of what Mrs. Obama means by “educating families about how to structure a life that is healthy.” The guide recommends, “Steer clear of the cookie, snack and soda aisle until after you’ve collected everything on your list–at that point, your cart should be full, which might make you feel less tempted to buy things you don’t need.” This is a theme that she has reiterated over and over: that certain foods are good and other foods are bad. This is what she means by changing the “nature” of food.
It is one thing to tell Americans that sitting in front of the television and eating donuts, chips, and Big Macs all day is not a good idea and will lead to unhealthy consequences. But actively restricting access to certain foods or foods produced in a certain way crosses the line. Promoting activity and exercise among young people and adults is a great idea. But be careful about restrictions on food choices and about labeling some foods as bad foods. As my friend the robot would say, “Danger, Danger!!!”
by Gary Truitt