usually from ourselves. We might not be careful enough at an
intersection, and rather than leave our own safety in our own hands, a
system has been set up to force us, by law, to wait until the light is
in our favor before we can proceed to drive on or cross the street.
I’m in favor of that law since it tends to avoid a lot of chaos in the
streets and helps to avert many intersection deaths — which would
significantly add to the number we already have — thanks to forced
patience and time to allow for more attentiveness to safety matters,
both for the driver and the pedestrian.
But all laws or even rules “for our own good” are not that readily
accepted and normally obeyed. It wasn’t that long ago that a certain
mayor of a certain big city decided to ban all sugary drinks over a
certain size “for our own good.” That may have created a kind of
“underground,” if you will, in which those who really wanted those BIG
gulpie kinds of drinks to search for an outlet that would still offer
them, “legal” or not. And in certain schools across this nation, when
“healthy” lunches were mandated to replace “junk food” in the school
lunchrooms, the refuse bins in those cafeterias got to see more of
those “healthy lunches” than the children’s tummies did.
What does this tell us? It tells me that people care about other
peoples’ health, but they just don’t know how to go about changing
someone’s desire for their large slurpees and their mac and cheese.
Let’s face it: “For your own good” is just another way of saying, “You
will do what we say.” And that does not bode well for a free society
in which individuals are free to choose.
We can probably all agree that there are many things we as individuals
do that do not necessarily serve our own best health needs, maybe
because we don’t know any better. And we can probably also agree that
even if we did know, we might still choose to do otherwise, for
whatever reason. That is the nature of the human beast.
Whether we have access to the best advice or even physical help in
choosing and preparing our foods, our preferences will always win out
in the end!
So what to do!? Well, apparently what will not work is for the food
police to force everyone at large to eat or drink their way. What will
likely work in time is educating people to the dangers of “this,” and
the benefits of “that.” And that education has to start with those
raising children, since that is where eating habits start and our
basic nutritional education begins — whether deliberately or simply by
the child’s observation and copycat behavior.
Yet before even that education can begin, it would be so wonderful if
food manufacturers could be as honest as they are greedy to make more
sales. No one would likely be opposed to any company making more money
(it’s the American way) if it was done with integrity and honesty.
That would mean no more commercials about the “wonders” of a food, or
how you’ll be loved more, viewed as most popular, or feel great right
now if you eat this or that food product. People are gullible and
would more likely believe the commercial than they would be to believe
that a diet rich in the advertiser’s food product would be depleting
their stores of some vitamin or mineral, which could lead to some
health challenge if they eat that food product often in place of what
their body really needs.
So as long as the advertising world hypes up the feel good, look good,
be popular fairy tale surrounding their particular food product,
chances are Mom or Dad won’t have much chance pointing out that eating
“this” or “that” instead will make a child grow stronger and healthier
(something that won’t necessarily make the child look “cool” to their
friends in the lunchroom); besides, having a healthier colon is not
something that teenagers think about as they’re going for an
after-school burger, fries and shake.
There is no eating plan that anyone can force upon any group of
individuals that will be met with whole hearted enthusiastic
across-the-board acceptance, mainly because of the fact that it is
forced upon them. People will eventually accept an upstepping in their
eating habits and even eating desires if it is more gradual and the
concept behind the need for the change has a chance to sink in before
it is “forced” upon them. And needless to say, what parents — or those
in control of a young child’s eating habits — feed the child and have
available in the home goes a long way toward shaping those young minds
toward their lifelong eating habits.
So those in charge must ask themselves: Is it better to have uneaten
and unchosen “healthy” foods in the school lunch programs that end up
in the trash, or to maybe serve “better” versions of what the kids
have already come to choose, eat, and enjoy? Sure, it will take work,
but it will be a good compromise until long range nutrition education
sinks in. Trial programs are always best, with something like a
“Taste-our-new-mac-and-cheese” Day, or “Tell us what you don’t like
and would never eat” forms that can be filled out by students any day
during the year.
I think that a panel of about three students (to be rotated every
semester) who can evaluate the food, get reviews from their peers and
make suggestions for changes, and even be instrumental in educating
their peers, can help bring about needed change. Sending home such
peer reports on a monthly basis can help educate the parents as to the
state of affairs in school regarding the lunches and snacks. Many
parents might be too busy or too tired or simply unable to show up for
a parent-teacher meeting about the school’s nutritional program at
night or even during the day, yet might want to do their part in
showing they care and maybe eventually help break their child’s poor
eating habits, that they — the parents — likely helped their children
to start in the first place.
Michelle Obama is well-intentioned. Many parents are too. Yet we all
know that a mother can spend time and love in packing a nutritious
lunch for her child only to have the child trade it out for a bologna
sandwich on white bread and a bag of chips when at school. (And some
schools apparently even ban certain lunches brought from home!) Change
must be gradual and acceptance must be present before one steps up the
change. True, it has to start somewhere, but once we are no longer
under our parent’s thumb, if there is any choice at all, we want to
feel free to make that choice. Eventually we will be educated enough
and smart enough to make better choices; but as we look around today,
even the “educators” don’t always make the best choices for
themselves. However, the key word is “choices” — and that goes
hand-in-hand with “freedom.”
We really do not want a society in which food police make our choices
for us. And heaven forbid we should choose something that is “bad” for
us anyway and get caught! What would our punishment be? To be served
only the foods we least like until we “learn” our lesson?
No matter who you are or what you think you know about food — and that
includes me — nobody wants to be forced to give up everything they
like and take on everything they don’t like, just to please someone
“for their own good”… until and if they come to see it that way for
Educate each other, sure. Answer questions, yes. Give reasons for your
own eating preferences, naturally. Explain the dangers of certain
eating behaviors, of course. Offer to help upgrade someone’s eating
habits if they ask for help… why not? But force? Not unless you’re
their mother and they are five years old.
Food police, no matter what uniform they are wearing, are killing our
freedom to choose.
Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She
writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email
her at firstname.lastname@example.org.