National Security and Your Child’s Health

School Pizza

The government certainly has a role in the health of our nation’s youth, but there are times that they can simply go too far. As a perfect example of government overreach, many Democrats wanted to remove pizza and French fries from school cafeterias throughout the nation. Their intention was to address the childhood obesity problem through legislative action to restrict parental and local choices. Thankfully, Republicans came to the rescue and saved the day by slipping a provision into the recently passed spending bill that funds government through December 15, 2011.

While the problem of childhood obesity is clearly an important national health concern, just as it is for adults, I am personally against limiting the choices which are available to individuals. When it comes to our health care, government does have a significant role to play but that role should not extend into the micro-management of our daily lives. However, not everyone agrees with this opinion and has taken the issue of school cafeteria food options to an entirely new level. Now, according to some groups, what your child can eat at school is a matter of national security.

A group named Mission: Readiness, a non-profit organization comprised of retired senior level military officials, has declared that childhood obesity is a matter of national security and that America’s children should not be permitted the option of eating pizza or french fries at school. While I applaud their efforts to bring greater awareness to treating childhood obesity, the fact that they tied this medical condition to national security is irresponsible in my opinion. Such loose use of the term national security, and imposing the will of the few on our entire nation, is an attempted overreach by the military. The United States was founded on the freedom to choose and speak, and any military involvement in our personal lives is likened to dictatorships that impose the military rule of law on its citizens.

Obesity is a major medical problem for Americans, but limiting what they may choose to eat is not the solution to the problem. Solving America’s obesity problem begins in the kitchen of every home, and is a more complex problem to correct then most realize. For one, healthier foods cost more than fast food. Those households that are struggling to make ends meet, because of being unemployed or underemployed, lack the financial means to eat healthy. Then there is the matter of time.  Parents work hard to care and provide for their families and must work even harder to keep up with health insurance premium and college education increases that grow two or three times the rate of their own salaries.

The way to deal with childhood obesity is to allow parents the opportunity to put healthy food on the table, whether by an improved economy conducive to better household finances or by reducing the financial need for both parents to work. After a long day at work, it is difficult for any parent to spend an hour in the kitchen cooking a healthy meal. For these parents, that already have their time and finances stretched, they often choose a happy meal over something healthy.

The health care needs of America’s youth are very important, but micro-managing their every meal is wrong. A better solution to address obesity, on an individual level, is to increase their health insurance premiums to better reflect the actual risk factors of each person. This would place the responsibility for one’s health clearly on each individual’s own shoulders. Instead of worrying if our children should be permitted to eat pizza at school, politicians need to focus on the economy so that parents can care and provide for the needs of their families as they see fit.