Palin, the cookie monster

Sarah Palin has found a new way to channel the Tea Party movement's anti-big-government fervor — and tweak First Lady Michelle Obama at the same time. On Nov. 9, she showed up at a Pennsylvania school bearing dozens of cookies, a gesture intended to show her disapproval of a state proposal to limit the sweets served in public schools. "Who should be making the decisions what you eat and school choice and everything else?" Palin asked the students, in a clear swipe at the First Lady's campaign to end childhood obesity. "Should it be government or should it be the parents?"

Above is the lede from a story in Business Week (pointed out by @TheAtlanticFood), and I can't decide which part of the idiocy to chew on first.

I think I'll start with her decision to make her political points on the backs of little kids. A famous TV star comes into their classroom and asks a question; what are they gonna say? Deliver a nuanced riposte on the role of government in health, agriculture, and nutrition policy? Say anything worthwhile at all?

But perhaps the better part is the absurdity of the situation: She brings cookies for kids to eat, and then says that parents should be the ones to decide what kids should eat. How many parents were there? Did Palin check with them all before doling out the processed sugar and flour? 

That goes right to the heart of the issue. Parents are responsible for the choices, as they are for all the choices that would affect the welfare of their kids. But people with different opinions of healthy nutrition, as well as people who have ulterior motivations (such as making political hay) may undercut what parents can do. Even the most well-meaning and committed parents can't be everywhere, all the time — and judging from the obesity epidemic, a lot of parents aren't that committed anyway.

How about having community standards of nutrition, so that when entities charged with maintaining children's wellbeing are feeding them, they will meet at least the minimum standard? Doesn't mean kids can't eat what they want, especially when they're with their families. But if we can't perfectly meet each family's standard in these groups settings, shouldn't we err on the conservative, first-do-no-harm side? That's what most people, including Palin certainly, would urge if the subject were semi-salacious art on the walls or the modesty of teachers' outfits.

One in three kids in America has a weight problem. Is bringing in cookies, without checking with parents, really a responsible idea, even if it strikes a homey note?

Author and wellness innovator Michael Prager helps smart companies
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