Rights and Choices.

by Ezra Klein

Over at Gristmill, Pangolin writes:

This Alice Waters has volunteers convinced that the way to spend their time is to bring fruits and vegetables into classrooms and introduce them to kids at the peak of their quality. Kids will eat carrots, kale and broccoli when it’s fresh and well presented and refuse it if it’s just a little bit peaked. Put salad bars in high schools and kids will clean them out but only if the ingredients are good quality.

Anybody who doesn’t think it isn’t a national priority to put apples and persimmons in mouths instead of twinkies hasn’t looked at a health insurance bill recently. Your tax bill is directly related to the national consumption of Mac’N’cheese in favor of chickpeas. A moron like Bourdain who spends his time eating the best of food but denying the importance of that same food to the health of his countrymen is a jerk.

There’s no free market in food in the US. Every food item that you don’t pick from your own yard is subsidized or taxed in some way. What’s wrong with picking the good food over the garbage?

This comment is a neat encapsulation of the way the food movement can mix an admirable populism with a counterproductive projection of their own food preferences. I’ve been a kid. You could have built me a race car out of kale and I wouldn’t have chosen to touch the thing. The children of America do not cry out for salad bars.

But the second paragraph is a hardheaded policy point: Paying more for food now probably means we’ll pay less for health care later. The evidence that childhood eating patterns correlate with adulthood health problems is increasingly strong. Hell, the rise of type 2 diabetes means the evidence that childhood eating patterns correlate with childhood health problems is increasingly strong. But the two points don’t exist separately from each other. If listeners think the health argument is cover for salad bar advocacy, they’ll toss out the whole damn thing. You won’t get anywhere arguing that access to healthful food should be a right if people think you really mean to say is that what they eat should no longer be a choice.

5 responses to “Rights and Choices.

  1. Alice Waters has volunteers convinced that the way to spend their time is to bring fruits and vegetables into classrooms and introduce them to kids at the peak of their quality. Kids will eat carrots, kale and broccoli when it’s fresh and well presented and refuse it if it’s just a little bit peaked. Put salad bars in high schools and kids will clean them out but only if the ingredients are good quality.

    This is an untested assertion AFAIK… and remembering what I ate as a kid, I have a hard time believing it. I’m curious as to what “good quality” means in this usage… Alice Waters refuses to use anything but fresh local ingredients… so is the idea that kids will eat kale straight from the garden, but not from the supermarket? How about Whole Foods?

  2. DuckDuckGoose

    Another problem around educating children (and adults) in healthy eating is in considering, or not, that there are a lot of children with eating disorders and I think this issue needs to be brought into the conversation. Nutritional labeling in school cafeterias and pressure to make healthy eating choices might wreak havoc on the psychology of, say, an anorexic. YOU MAY ONLY EAT THESE FOODS OR YOU WILL BE A SICKLY ADULT is not the right message to send to our kids in this culture of pressure to look and behave within certain acceptable parameters. Moderation, moderation, moderation.

  3. I don’t know if it was that my mom was Italian, or an organic gardener, or if I was just weird…but I loved veggies as a kid. At least the veggies my mom made.

    The thing I constantly tried to refuse was meat.

    The canned crap they served at the caf and at friends’ houses was gross. I’ve converted numerous friends from haters to veggie lovers by just sauteeing the damn things with garlic.

  4. Alice Waters’ foundation funded a school lunch experiment in Berkeley, where they hired a talented chef to run it and subsidized the food cost. They of course found that what Alice Waters’ daughter eats isn’t what schoolkids in general eat, and their first attempts were soundly rejected by the school population. But they kept trying and eventually did pretty well, providing healthy lunches that the kids liked, and did broaden kids’ palates at the same time. IIRC the food cost was quite high relative to a standard school lunch, but going from the prison-food menu kids get today to something healthy and appealing using conventionally grown food could be done for a lot less than using only locally grown organic food.

  5. There has been no rise in childhood Type II Diabetes.

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