Obesity matter of personal responsibility

Baxter Black

Many of us in the food producing business are watching with a suspicious eye Michelle Obama’s pending federally funded efforts to combat obesity in children.

Our skepticism is justified because every special interest group from global warming to UFO conspirators somehow wind up casting blame on modern agriculture.

Nevertheless, obesity apparently is a serious problem and worthy of attention. Her “Let’s Move!” web page states that “6.5 million children (live) more than a mile away from a supermarket. These communities are now called “food deserts.”

More than a mile? It is obvious that Obama and I live in different realities. I would guess many who read this column live more than a mile from a supermarket. I can picture a rancher’s wife 20 miles north of Ekalaka, Mont., a farmer’s wife in Oyen, Alberta who gets snowed in for three days, or a family riding out a hurricane, flood and five-day power outage on the South Carolina coast. Food desert?

I guess what is most unsettling for me, is the helplessness Obama ascribes to the urban parents of obese children. She assumes they are incapable of planning a trip to the store, teaching their children discipline, managing a budget and, God forbid, having to walk, drive or bus more than a mile of couple times a week to shop.

Truthfully, no one expects them to grow a garden or can their own food. But I would bet that if these helpless parents had a grocery store right next door it still wouldn’t decrease children’s obesity.

It’s not just what you eat, it’s how much you eat.

My ignorance of big cities precludes any comment about big city grocery stores and their proximity to the “food desert victims.” But in rural communities people are forced to do some planning.

Years ago JFK had physical fitness as one of his administrative concerns. It would seem to be beneficial for overweight kids to exercise, right? How ’bout the victims walkin’ to the grocery store once or twice a week? Is that unthinkable?

Of course, I concede that most urban teens are not expected to do physical work like mowing lawns, sweeping floors, picking up trash, pulling weeds, painting houses or walking the dog. That’s why the immigrants and illegals are in such demand; they do the manual labor.

Well, despite my cynicism, I wish her good luck. Her motives are good.

We just have a different approach. She is of the entitlement mentality that says obese children and their parents are helpless victims and the government-sponsored meals on wheels to the able-bodied is their only hope.

Whereas I have the entrepreneurial mentality that says each person is responsible for their own behavior and that of their dependents. As I said, she and I live in different realities.