Former Alaska governor and Tea Party favorite Sarah Palin has criticized proposed school nutrition guidelines in Pennsylvania which would limit the sweets allowed for classroom and holiday parties at school, and which would encourage parents to serve more healthy snacks like fruits or vegetables. The Pennsylvania State Board of Education is scheduled to vote on the proposed guidelines this spring.
Before attending a Bucks County, PA school fundraiser Tuesday, Ms. Palin tweeted, ““2 PA school speech; I’ll intro kids 2 beauty of laissez-faire via serving them cookies amidst school cookie ban debate;Nanny state run amok!” She then brought 200 sugar cookies to event, and was quoted by ABC News as saying:
I had to shake it up a little bit because I heard there is a debate going on in Pennsylvania over whether most schools condemn sweets, cakes, cookies, that type of thing. I brought dozens and dozens of cookies to these students.
ABC further quoted Ms. Palin:
You shouldn’t been making these decisions about what you can eat at the school. Should it be the government or should it be the parents?”
Of course, it’s the framing of that last question which is so specious, in that it seemingly pits governmental intrusion against personal freedom. But that’s not what’s going on here. I personally have no interest in regulating what foods a parent can or cannot bring for his/her child’s own consumption at school. That would, in my opinion, be a true example of a Nanny State.
What I do object to, however, is the lack of oversight regarding what foods other parents can bring for my child’s consumption. As I argued in one of my first Lunch Tray posts (“The Birthday Cupcake Debate Heats Up“), when a child is at school, he or she is as captive to what goes on there as a person in an elevator is captive to second-hand smoke. We don’t allow smoking in elevators, and we shouldn’t allow the serving of food to school children to which a parent might object on a variety of grounds — nutritional, religious, a concern about allergens, or for any other reason.
Moreover, with childhood obesity quickly becoming one of the biggest public health crises facing this country, Palin’s cookie stunt strikes me as somewhat tone deaf. With one out of three children already overweight or obese, and with the potential health care costs of obesity currently estimated at $150 billion (and counting), is this really where she wants to make her point about “protecting our freedoms”?
[Thanks to reader Renee for the tip about this story.]
[Ed. Update: This post led to a huge number of reader comments, which are addressed here.]