Michael Gaynor
Why is the Obama administration restricting freedom of choice in public school cafeterias?
By Michael Gaynor
March 29, 2011

Those who aren't obese will be deprived of their freedom of choice, because the choice must not be made available to the obese.

On January 13, 2011, a month after President Obama signed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (the legislative centerpiece of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! campaign), the United States Department of Agriculture announced proposed new standards for meals served through the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack called the proposed new federal guidelines (http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2011/pdf/2011-485.pdf) the "biggest change in a generation" and a "road map" for schools to follow as they offer what Mrs. Obama wants them to offer: fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, low- and non-fat dairy products.

"It's responding to a deep concern that we have at USDA, and that the President and First Lady have, about not only hungry children, but also children who are obese or at risk of being obese," Vilsack said. "If we do not get our hands around the obesity epidemic, we are risking serious consequences."

The proposed rule is very detailed. It specifies sizes as well as the kinds of vegetables schools must offer. Starchy vegetables such as corn, green peas, and potatoes are limited to one cup per week.

For the first time, there are to be minimum and maximum calorie limits for school meals.


The Obama Administration notoriously champions abortion as a suitable choice and works to keep America's largest abortion mill, Planned Parenthood, receiving federal money, but when it comes to the food to be served in public schools, the Obama Administration perceives some choices as prohibitable and others as severely restrictable.

Why is the First Lady so involved in food regulation?

Is there more to it than enhancing her own political prospects?

Why should the choices of everyone be limited because some people are overweight or obese?

Public school prayer was prohibited because a tiny minority claimed to be offended and their alleged sensibilities were held to outweigh everything else.

Is public school food regulation now being driven by the First Lady's "black community first and foremost" attitude?

When it comes to being overweight or obese, blacks outpace Hispancis and whites, and Hispanics outpace whites.

On July 16, 2009, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued this press release (www.cdc.gov/media/pressrel/2009/r090716.htm):

" New Obesity Data Shows Blacks Have the Highest Rates of Obesity

"Blacks had 51 percent higher prevalence of obesity, and Hispanics had 21 percent higher obesity prevalence compared with whites, according to researchers with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Greater prevalences of obesity for blacks and whites were found in the South and Midwest than in the West and Northeast. Hispanics in the Northeast had lower obesity prevalence than Hispanics in the Midwest, South or West. The study, in CDC¡äs Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, examined data from 2006-2008. 'This study highlights that in the United States, blacks and Hispanics are disproportionately affected by obesity,' said Dr. William H. Dietz, Director of CDC¡äs Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity, 'If we have any hope of stemming the rise in obesity, we must intensify our efforts to create an environment for healthy living in these communities.'

"The study uses data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. BRFSS is an ongoing, state-based, random-digit¨Cdialed telephone survey of the U.S. civilian, noninstitutionalized population aged 18 years and older.

"The study found that in 40 states, obesity prevalence among blacks was 30 percent or more. In five of those states, Alabama, Maine, Mississippi, Ohio, and Oregon, obesity prevalence among blacks was 40 percent or greater.

For blacks, the prevalence of obesity ranged from 23 percent to 45.1 percent among all states and the District of Columbia; among Hispanics in 50 states and DC, the prevalence of obesity ranged from 21 percent to 36.7 percent, with 11 states having an obesity prevalence of 30 percent or higher. Among whites in 50 states and the District of Columbia, the prevalence of obesity ranged from 9 percent to 30.2 percent, with only West Virginia having a prevalence of 30 percent or more. 'We know that racial and ethnic differences in obesity prevalence are likely due to both individual behaviors, as well as differences in the physical and social environment,' said Liping Pan, M.D., M.P.H., lead author and epidemiologist. 'We need a combination of policy and environmental changes that can create opportunities for healthier living.'

"For this study analysis, CDC analyzed the 2006−2008 BRFSS data. For more information on obesity trends, tables, including an animated map, visit http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/trends.html. To learn more about CDC¡äs efforts in the fight against obesity or for more information about nutrition, physical activity, and maintaining a healthy weight, visit http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpao.

On August 16, 2010, Arielle Fridson, in "Obesity Rates Fall for White Girls, Not for Blacks, Indians in U.S. Study" (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-08-16/obesity-rates-fall-for-white-girls-not-for-blacks-indians-in-u-s-study.html), reported:

"Obesity increased among black and American Indian girls in California even while declining for non-Hispanic whites, signaling flaws in U.S. programs aimed at combating fatness, researchers said.

"The rate of obesity rose to 22 percent in 2008 for black girls, from 20 percent seven years earlier, while climbing for American Indian girls to 23 percent from 15 percent, according to a study published today in the journal Pediatrics. Those numbers moved up even after 2005, when the rate for non- Hispanic white girls fell by 0.6 percentage point, to 10 percent, the scientists said.

"The finding suggests there will be greater disparities among racial and ethnic groups over time, and that anti-obesity programs must be tailored to high-risk populations, said researchers led by Kristine A. Madsen, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco.

"Our study is a call to action,' Madsen said in a telephone interview Aug. 12. 'We're the first ones to show that the policies that we're putting in place to decrease obesity are not decreasing disparities. That's scary.' Programs should target low-income communities specifically, since that is where obesity is increasing, she said."

First Lady Michelle Obama chose to focus on America's weight problem and to control food choices of others.

It's not because she's obese, because she's not.

Is it because obesity affects Blacks disproportionately?

The First Lady (then Michelle LaVaughn Robinson), in her college senior thesis titled "Princeton-Educated Blacks and the Black Community" (1985), explained her priorities and plans as follows:

"[W]ith the increasing integration of Blacks into the mainstream society, many ¡®integrated Blacks' have lost touch with the Black culture in their attempts to become adjusted and comfortable in their new culture — the White culture. Some of these Blacks are no longer able to enjoy the qualities which make Black culture so unique or are unable to openly share their culture with other Blacks because they have become so far removed from these experiences and, in some instances, ashamed of them as a result of their integration."

"In an individual's lifetime, it is necessary that the individual focus his/her interests on benefiting a limited number of things at a time because it is impossible to help everyone and everything equally at the same time. Therefore, the individual must create a motivational hierarchy from which the individual can determine which social groups are most important to benefit. Some individuals may place the highest value on benefiting themselves or their families. Others may value their occupational fields most highly. Others may place God before everything else. In still other instances, one's motivation to benefit either the U.S. society, the non-White races of the world or the human species as a whole could be most powerful."

"Earlier in my college career, there is no doubt in my mind that as a member of the Black community I was somehow obligated to this community and would utilize all of my present and future resources to benefit this community first and foremost."

If the Black community is "first and foremost," then everyone else isn't.

Thanks to the First Lady, public school menus will not only be prepared based on a laudable desire to discourage obesity, but with a deplorable one to restrict the choices of the non-obese to maintain uniformity.

Those who aren't obese will be deprived of their freedom of choice, because the choice must not be made available to the obese.

Is that fair?

Isn't there a better way?

© Michael Gaynor


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)

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Michael Gaynor

Michael J. Gaynor has been practicing law in New York since 1973. A former partner at Fulton, Duncombe & Rowe and Gaynor & Bass, he is a solo practitioner admitted to practice in New York state and federal courts and an Association of the Bar of the City of New York member... (more)


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