Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Build a Better Pyramid

Dear USDA,

You're one of my favorite government agencies.  Honestly!  In the "Who's your favorite government agency?" conversations I have with my friends (don't most Americans have those?), you are right at the top  of my list--all the data you collect, certain programs you have...most days I have incredible amounts of love for you.

However, I'm worried about the new food pyramid you're developing.  We as a nation have a problem with food--obviously.  Most of us are overweight or obese, and perhaps that has a little something to do with the guidelines you present.  In revamping the food pyramid, you have the opportunity to help us get back on track.  Half of weight loss is eating right, and your guidelines can really set the tone for helping us solve this problem.

But it really seems like the new food pyramid won't be impartial guidelines; it'll be guidelines set by various lobbies.  As reported in the Washington Post:
In public comments, the meat lobby has opposed strict warnings on sodium that could cast a negative light on lunch meats. The milk lobby has expressed concerns about warnings to cut back on added sugars, lest chocolate- and strawberry-flavored milks fall from favor. Several members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation also weighed in against added-sugar restrictions in defense of the cranberry.
It's really sad to know that money and business interests are going to have more say in determining what's good for us.  Perhaps if these manufacturers and industries were forced to make their products a little healthier, they wouldn't be so bad for us in the first place.  Perhaps we Americans need to have a less sweet palate.  How will we know what's right, if the government isn't being totally truthful with us?

At the end of September, Gerald S. Lesser died.  He may not have been a household name, but he certainly affected generations of children.  As a psychologist and chief advisor to "Sesame Street," he really thought about what children should learn, taking into consideration who the show was aimed at (namely, disadvantaged kids who wouldn't have resources to a lot of things, but would probably watch TV).  His team came up with brilliant ideas to get educational concepts across to children (read the obit--if you're the type who still gets a little teary because Jim Henson died way too soon, this is a fascinating read).

Most importantly, Lesser and his team tried to do what was best for the children.  They put a lot of thought into creating a great product that's really become an integral part of our culture.  You have the opportunity to do the same thing--developing guidelines for how we eat is incredibly important.  You're the government--you're supposed to set the proper standards, not standards dictated by whichever lobby's willing to pony up enough money.

Our country is in pretty bad shape, health-wise, and if we eat poorly now, that will just drain our resources later when it comes to having to pay health care costs for all the people who have weight-related issues.  Let's not go down that path--let's get a better start and make a better America.

Your pal,

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