Despite the protestations of the right, the government absolutely has an interest in making sure its citizens are fit. A healthy American has a lower chance of major illness and disease, thereby being more productive, producing more tax revenue, better able to fight in a war if need be, more likely to nurture healthy children, and requiring less medical care (esp. important with the Affordable Health Care Act).
So, it is in the government’s and its citizens’ best interest for food producers to provide healthier alternatives and consumers to buy them. The largest impediment is the current high cost of organic food and healthier options. A family living on minimum wage isn’t going to go to Whole Foods and buy organic when it costs 4 times as much as the local Safeway.
Here is where the true battle between progressives and conservatives should be fought- in the government’s ability to allow equal access to markets. I do not believe the government should enact subsidies or price supports to make fresh, healthy ingredients more readily available. Rather, we need to look at ways to make it a positive incentive, say through tax deductions and incentives.
There is also a less controversial way for the government to be involved, and that is by addressing deficiencies in our children’s education. We need to bring back health courses in elementary and high school, which have been cut over the past 20 years. Reintroducing these classes can help kids learn to make better diet and lifestyle choices. Also, gym class and recesses have been all but eliminated. Physical stimulation in growing children is just as important as mental nourishment; it has not only been shown to help socialization, but also to actually help children in their studies.
In the end, it comes down to letting people decide how best to live their lives. Banning Big Gulps isn’t the answer, empowerment is. Arming the people with the best information and access has always been the foundation of a fit and strong America.
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