Over the course of the past 30 years, the prevalence of childhood obesity has nearly tripled. Nearly one in three American children and adolescents today are overweight or obese…. Nearly a third of our nation’s young people are at risk for preventable diseases like type-2 diabetes and heart disease. Preventable diseases have serious consequences – which is why health experts tell us that our current generation of children may well have a shorter lifespan than their parents.
USDA press release, May 1, 2013.
The subject of the press release was some new school-lunch program. One might read this and reasonably conclude that the USDA is helping to prevent childhood obesity.
But the reality is that the USDA is complicit in the causes of the epidemic. It promotes and implements an industrial food system designed to generate cheap, fattening, nutrient-free processed food. The things that are fattening and killing our children (such as candy-coated breakfast cereals, soft drinks, fast foods and processed snack/junk foods) are made primarily from government-subsidized commodity crops. Because so much of the cost of those items is prepaid by taxpayers, they appear cheap in comparison to whole natural foods, whose producers are not receiving government handouts.
I overheard someone talking about the prevalence of obese kids these days. He said something like, “Remember when there was usually just one fat kid in the class or in the school?” It made me think of Fat Albert, a cartoon from my childhood. In those days, childhood obesity was a rare thing (and more likely to be caused by genetics than exclusively by diet). Today, with 1/3 or more of all American children obese, it’s becoming the norm.
We are feeding our children a diet that fattens and ultimately prematurely kills them. That diet, combined with lack of exercise, is producing a nation whose children are as fat as its adults.
And even as the USDA might be saying the right things, it’s handing kids “happy meals” and bags of cheetos while saying them.