A large domestic challenge finds a champion

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Column by Jim Flynn

Every White House administration likes to have its First Lady dedicated to a significant domestic cause. Mrs. Obama began gradually in 2009 by turning over some expensive grass and planting a victory garden in the White House back yard. At the time it was unclear whether her cause would be nutrition or farming.
A concern arose when it was discovered that the first crop from Obama Acres might not be wholesome.
In support of environmental awareness, former residents Bill and Hilary Clinton had White House sewage sludge spread as fertilizer on the White House lawn. After careful investigation, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave the White House sod a fit-to-grow-food seal of approval.
The success of the first year crop motivated Mrs. O to expand the White House garden to 1500 square feet in 2010. It’s a big back yard.
In March of this year Mrs. O and willing workers from local grammar schools planted a third garden of cabbage, collards, cauliflower, Swiss chard, beets, and other yummy and yukky veggies. The president does not like beets.
Washington believes Americans respond best to domestic challenges which are treated with the same seriousness as military conflicts – for example the war on poverty and the war on drugs. Mrs. O’s challenge is a war on obesity, which she calls a threat to national security.
Like all causes, the war on obesity is generating positive and negative comment. A TV personality on the Food Network has suggested making the war on obesity a global human rights issue, just as important as climate change. As a human rights problem obesity can be viewed as a result of deprivation and oppression, in need of significant government intervention and assistance.
On the other hand two research fellows at the Democracy Institute authored a put-down titled “Diet Nation: Exposing the Obesity Crusade.” They call it a manufactured epidemic.
An early achievement of the war on obesity has been motivating FDA to finish a project it began in 2003 – to redesign the boxes, cans, cartons, and labels for every food product. After eight years, FDA credits its sudden inspiration and production to major advances in nutrition regulations by the Obama administration.
The next inspired accomplishment of FDA is menu labeling regulations for restaurants, bakeries, grocery stores, convenience stores, coffee chains, and vending machines.
We doubt there is anyone with access to news and information who hasn’t heard that the primary cause of overweight is more calories consumed than calories burned - in other words bad eating habits and lack of physical activity.
We who are skeptical about new government initiatives have to wonder whether the White House garden was a planned prelude to the declaration of war on obesity – an expansion of the granny state. We wonder how long will it be until the White House asks Congress to create an FDA obesity bureau to manage the war on fat. Maybe the funding can be raised by erecting a vegetable stand on Pennsylvania Avenue.