Two items crossing my screen in the past couple of days illustrate the fabulously roiled field of food and food politics.
First, my pal Deborah Lapidus at Corporate Accountability International wrote to ask that I add my voice against the corporate food lobby's attempt in Arizona to prevent local cities and towns from even proposing laws that would impede marketing of junk food to children.
A poll released yesterday by the Pew Research Center for People and the Press offers a couple of information points about the battle againsty obesity in the U.S.:
A bit more than half of Americans think the government should play a significant role in reducing obesity, but of 22 issues Pew asked its 1,504 respondents, the issue ranked last in importance. Nineteen percent rated it as the highest priority, compared with 14 percent who said the government should not take any role.
I'm a couple days behind on this, but wanted to register it nevertheless: Minnesota's senators (Franken and Klobuchar) and Tom Harkin of Iowa, again introduced FREED, the Federal Response to Eliminate Eating Disorders bill, last week.
It would do a number of things — such as expand federal research, train health professionals and educators to screen for eating disorders effectively, and create a patient advocacy program, according to a joint release by the senators.
As a new restaurant owner and assistant minority leader of the Massachusetts Senate, BOB HEDLUND, 49, of Weymouth is well situated to comment on politics and food. After I read his comments in the Boston Globe recently — especially that “the marketplace should determine what’s on restaurant menus, not the First Lady of the United States” — I asked if we could talk. Regular readers will recognize the format: questions and answers of 10 words or less. Please, no counting; it’s a goal, not a rule, and besides, let’s see you do it.
The name of your restaurant: “Four Square.”
Where is it? “Weymouth Landing, Braintree.”
What kind of a place is it? “Beer and wine, with a very diverse menu.”
What’s your favorite dish, personally? “Beer.”
Have you ever had a weight problem? “No.”
Please rank obesity as a national problem, on a scale of 1-10: “Between a 7 and an 8.”
Do we need a solution for it? “It’s obviously not going to solve itself, but the answer does not lie solely with government.”
As regular readers will know, I am a lefty, politically, from way back. It is with a rueful semi-admiration that I observe that it is almost always the other side that frames our debates, relying on pith and misdirection while I expect logic to prevail. When I do that, I am the pocket-protected nerd, all over again.
What I'm thinking of this morning are the phrases "food police" and "nanny state," which are emotionally laden semi-accurate terms intended to convey a sneer before anything else. No need to listen; who could possibly support people with names like that?
My longest-standing readers know that I started out blogging on topics of sustainability, which I rather narrowly defined as issues around energy use. Gradually, I shifted to food issues because I wanted and needed to support my book, "Fat Boy Thin Man."
In the transition, I saw how sustainability, defined as the dictionary does, rather than cloaked in the meaning "we" have attached to it, applies in so many ways to food. Yes, my thinking was absurdly narrow.
I know that blog posts should be short, but I so often struggle to combine brevity with complete, rounded thoughts. I also indulge in little preludes, such as the one you just read. Anyway, here's an attempt at shorter:
One absolute invoked by those who speak of the "food police" is the primacy of individual and corporate rights. End of discussion. I value my rights, too, but they don't prevent me from seeing all the harm that unfettered junk food marketing to kids, and to the rest of us, is doing.
From a recent Marion Nestle post:
It is not an accident that five dollars at McDonald’s will buy you five hamburgers or only one salad. It is not an accident that the indexed price of fruits and vegetables has increased by 40% since the early 1980s, whereas the indexed price of sodas has decreased by 30%. Right now, agricultural policies support our present industrialized food system and strongly discourage innovation and consumption of relatively unprocessed foods.