Don’t let the food police get away with these half-baked ideas

While we’ve all had a good laugh (at least I hope you did) at former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s decrees on 16-ounce sodas, calorie counts and trans fats, there are many other instances of the government’s irrational need to tell everyone else how to live and coerce them into compliance.

Some more examples of government gastronomical inanity:

A blogger in North Carolina was threatened with jail time for “practicing nutrition without a license” by writing about his experiences with diabetes and telling readers what types of food he was eating. No, I’m not making this up.

In California, “food confiscation teams” have visited the homes of people who have been discovered to have purchased raw milk.

And across the pond in England, triangle-shaped cookies were banned because they might injure a child. Yes, really.

This week’s episode of “Nanny State Knows Best” comes to us courtesy of the Gorham school district, which announced that its three elementary schools are joining other area schools in their cupcake ban.

Of course, the “it’s for the children” rallying cry inevitably gets trotted out.

Some people will argue that cupcakes aren’t good for you, but, then again, if we listened to the so-called experts on what could potentially be harmful we would be living on air and water.

This is all done in the name of eradicating childhood obesity.

If taking cupcakes out of the equation would mean no more corpulent kids, I’d be all for it. But does anybody really believe that fat youth are the result of a cupcake in a classroom and not about the sort of lifestyle choices made by children and parents?

If junk food, soda and fast food — all of which have been around for decades — are at the heart of the problem, so to speak, why is this a relatively modern phenomenon?

Some kids are fat, and others not. Don’t all our children live in the same country with the same cultural influences?

What’s going on here?

It boils down to parents demonstrating a lack of personal responsibility for their children, not teaching them to make sound choices. Too many parents don’t want to take responsibility for their actions or the choices they make for their children.

Which is, ultimately, the cause of childhood obesity.

Oh, I know it’s challenging to remember what you should be feeding the kiddos as dictated by first lady Michelle Obama who extols the virtues of her veggie garden and then chows down pizza and burgers with her girls. Even she knows you can eat anything, as long as it’s in moderation.

If we really want to fight this crisis (which is a genuine concern), let’s unplug kids and get them moving and active by playing ball (something else banned in a few schools, but I digress), taking a long walk, shooting hoops, playing outside — just being kids.

Take away their phones, laptops, tablets, video games and anything else that requires sedentary interaction with some gadget. Not only is it good for their mental and physical health, but they will also develop better social skills.

Here’s another novelty: the family dinner. Not only does making a choice — and it is a choice — to share a meal reconnect you in a meaningful way with your children, but it’s also a chance to provide fresh, healthy fare and lead by example. This activity has such beneficial implications that the Mayo Clinic sees it gaining traction as “an innovative hub of healthcare in a community.”

Another target of the food police is advertising, made clear in a study by the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity. “Most fast food restaurants stepped up advertising to children and teens,” said Jennifer Harris, the Rudd Center’s director of marketing initiatives and lead author of the report. “Most advertising promotes unhealthy regular menu items and often takes unfair advantage of young people’s vulnerability to marketing, making it even tougher for parents to raise healthy children.”

OK, I know kids are starting lots of things earlier these days, but you still have to be 16 to get a driver’s license. That means someone — usually mom or dad — has to take them to the restaurant to buy the food.

So how exactly is the advertising taking “unfair advantage” of kids? This mentality is being perpetrated to assuage the guilt of parents who are enabling the behavior.

Food marketing isn’t the problem. Cupcakes aren’t the problem.

If we really want to do something “for the children,” hold parents accountable for the health of their kids.

Susan Dench

About Susan Dench

Susan Dench is the founder and president of the fast-growing non-profit, non-partisan Informed Women's Network. Recognizing that many women are tired of "politics as usual," Susan decided to take action and develop strategies that are innovating the way women and politics intersect, nurturing and encouraging women in fun, energetic gatherings where views can be expressed in a supportive environment and then translated into practical solutions that produce results.