A taste of zing

Aug. 26, 2009, midnight | By Anya Gosine | 14 years, 7 months ago

White House should not have decried healthy lunch posters

The opponents: the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and the White House family. The source: the Healthy School Campaign's posters advocating a healthier lifestyle for the youth of America. It's not your typical food fight.

The Healthy School Campaign's posters, which mention President Obama's children, are scheduled to be displayed at Union Station until August 31. Picture courtesy of the Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine.

Two weeks ago, 14 posters part of the PCRM's Healthy School Campaign went up around Union Station in Washington, D.C. The campaign advertisements, aiming to improve the Child Nutrition Act, featured eight-year-old vegetarian Jasmine Messiah with a thought bubble containing 10 piercing words: "Obama's daughters get healthy school lunches. Why don't I?"

The White House was quick to object to the advertisements, claiming they violated the girls' privacy. As a cautious father, President Obama has taken careful steps since the beginning of his campaign to shield his two daughters, Sasha and Malia, from harmful media attention, and it was no surprise when the PCRM was immediately asked to take the posters down. The surprise more or less came when the PCRM blatantly refused to do so.

Though the PCRM's declination to remove the posters has drawn criticism from many groups, the organization is not as unreasonable as it may seem in its decision. There is certainly no doubt that the president's children should be left out of hardcore political matters, but the campaign's posters are not meant to draw them in.

The posters do not include the girls' names or pictures, nor do they address their personal lives. The campaign's message is not comparing the children, but rather their schools: private schools that offer many nutritious options and the majority of American public schools, which have unhealthy non-vegetarian meals ridden with high fat and cholesterol - such as in poster-child Messiah's case.

It is true that in White House history, the First Family has been off-limits for advertisement purposes. When Ty Inc. marketed dolls in January named Sweet Sasha and Marvelous Malia, the First Lady made her objections clear, and the toy company stopped using the girls' names. But this cause is no ordinary advertisement.

The Child Nutrition Act, which is to be reauthorized this October, establishes national nutrition standards for children in connection with the National School Lunch Program, which includes over 95,000 schools in America. The Healthy School Campaign's goal is to improve the nutrition standards for the program, increase funding for school meals and raise awareness for wellness policies and education.

With the percentage of obese or overweight children at or above 30 percent in 30 states as of July 2009, according to the Trust for America's Health, such amendments to the law would certainly be for the better. However, prior to the posting of the advertisements in Union Station, the campaign received little attention from Congress, making positive reform difficult. The campaign's bold statement in their advertisement is not intended to target the First Children, who are innocent in all political issues, but to evoke attention from politicians who possess the power to change the wellness of America's children.

Perhaps the White House should be concerned less with touchy media tactics – which are not likely to go away anytime soon – and more with the nation's large malnourished and obese populations. As for the Healthy Schools campaign, they were just in their headstrong methods to bring heed to a greater national problem. It is the same reason a mother forces her child to eat his vegetables - while he may not enjoy the initial taste, it will ultimately be beneficial.

Anya Gosine. More »

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