Personally, I too admire Jamie Oliver. I’ve been a fan ever since I met him at a congressional event in the mid-Nineties, and I love his recipes and his passion and enthusiasm for cooking. At that congressional event, he was very sweet and humble and seemed genuinely concerned about the issue he was discussing. I find him similarly earnest when I hear him discuss childhood obesity. It’s obvious that he really cares about these kids.
And while his West Virginia–filmed television show, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, was a little on the melodramatic side (what reality show isn’t?), I did applaud one of the many methods he employed to tackle the problem: He actually talked to the parents about how they can improve their children’s diets. Because ultimately, this is parents’ responsibility — not the responsibility of the school district or of the poor kitchen staff trying their best to feed a bunch of picky eaters.
However, Lansley was right to take on another aspect of Oliver’s “revolution,” by pointing out that government intervention (like dictating from above what school lunchrooms can serve) only leads to more government intervention (opening and photographing the contents of kids’ lunchboxes when they choose not to eat the approved school meal).
The childhood-obesity problem looms large, so to speak, in this country, and with the First Lady making it a priority, there’s no doubt we’ll ultimately see a call for more government intervention. In fact, we’ve already seen a profusion of proposed government solutions to the obesity problem: soda taxes, salt bans, sugar taxes, bans on certain foods in schools, and the latest — an attack on McDonald’s for (gasp!) putting toys in Happy Meals. In addition, the First Lady has promoted a huge increase in funding for the federally subsidized school-lunch program.
But, hopefully, some will heed the advice of Lansley, who seems to understand that the best way to deal with the “epidemic” of childhood obesity is to leave the government out of the equation altogether and to encourage more parental involvement in a child’s food decisions.
At the very least, can we keep the government out of our children’s home-packed lunchboxes?
– Julie Gunlock is a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.