I'm glad that I am not one of the food behavior scientists being paid to try to find ways to encourage children who use the federal lunch programs to choose more nutritious foods. I certainly think something should be done about obesity in children and teenagers and I appreciate the Department of Agriculture for making the effort, but this is just one of the many problems connected to irresponsible parenting.
I attended a meeting a couple of weeks ago with an agency that is also attempting to deal with obesity among children. Personally, I think it's pretty much an uphill battle. In the first place, many parents are overweight and they don't set a good example for their children. Besides, overeating seems to have become a way of life in America.
I notice too, that some organizations can no longer hold a meeting unless it is accompanied by a big meal. One national organization that held a day and a half convention in a nearby community had five scheduled meals on its agenda. It occurred to me to wonder when they had time to take care of their business. Churches also seem to have a lot of events where meals are served.
According to some statistics, about one-third of children and teenagers are overweight. It's fortunate that helping children make wise food choices isn't one of those areas where people want the government out of their lives. (Oops, I forgot. These people only want government out of their lives when government wants something from them, not the other way around.) Anyway, bringing up children is obviously a role government is going to have to play, since many parents have allowed the children to be at the head of the household and society has set rules that makes it virtually impossible for anyone else to intercede. I would imagine that no matter what schools try to do to assist with this problem, if the children do not want to cooperate, their parents will see that they don't have to.
I have no idea where the public thinks this reversal of parent-child roles in this country is going to lead. This fight over chocolate versus white milk being served with the federal school lunch program has been going for at least 30 years. I think it's unfortunate that some children won't know what the word "no" means until they become adults. But hopefully at some point the American taxpayer will figure out how much this attitude is costing them and decide to intervene. In the meantime a lot of people are fed up with this society's focus on children's wants.
People figured out how much smoking was costing them, so they passed laws to govern the use of tobacco. When they figure out how much is spent in support of the foster care system, the juvenile justice system and all the other money that is being spent as a result of irresponsible parents, they might find out that it costs less to pay for parenting classes and establish regulations governing the feeding and caring of children.
Except in cases of abuse and neglect, the man or woman-on-the-street likes to believe that they think of the rights of parents to bring up their children as they see fit, are sacrosanct. Actually, I believe they feel that way right up until they see how much it's costing them and they get the bill. Incidentally, the grant to initiate this program using food behavioral scientist is costing the government two million dollars.
Some of us can remember the days when communities had standards of behavior which the majority adhered to. We can also remember when the majority of parents took responsibility for the behavior of their kids. That was the America of yesterday and this is the America of today, where "we the people" must assume the responsibility for maintaining a civilization where children are kept safe and cared for responsibly and where it's safe for its citizens to be human.
Those of us who grew up in families where we were loved but not idealized and became working parents who still provided nutritious meals for our families do not have a lot of patience with parents who allow their children to devour all the junk food they can eat. The use of our tax dollars to help undo the harm people are doing to their own children goes against the grain.
On the other hand if government doesn't step in to try to protect these children, who will?
You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.