read more: Boston Herald

[password]Last week, President Barack Obama signed into law the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which (among other things) gives the FDA the power to regulate food served in schools. Predictably, conservative activists, including Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck, immediately condemned the law as another nanny-state encroachment on parental prerogatives and a threat to PTA bake sales as we know them.

Meanwhile, over on the Left Coast, California mom Monet Parham has filed suit against McDonald’s for . . . wait for it (or should I say weight for it) . . . marketing Happy Meals to kids.

In Parham’s fantasy world, McDonald’s is a modern-day pied piper, using magic to lure kids to their death (or maybe just obesity). The magic in this fairy tale comes in the form of so-called deceptive trade practices – practices that, apparently, have interfered with Parham’s ability to parent (or, indeed, to even have a spine).

“We have to say no to our kids so many times,” Parham breathlessly told CNN, “and McDonald’s makes that so much harder to do. I object to the fact that McDonald’s is getting into my kids’ heads without my permission and actually changing what my kids want to eat.”

Not surprisingly, the media – both the mainstream and blogosphere variety – have had a field day with all of this, declaring us to be in the midst of a partisan food fight. The picture they have painted is one of Democrats as healthy but overzealous regulators, and Republicans as free-market gluttons. One Internet blogger calls the new law “The Great Brownie Grab of 2010,” while another writes that for conservatives “freedom’s just another word for 50 pounds to lose.” Even ABC News has weighed in on the debate in an online article entitled “Simmering Culture War Boils Over: Food Regulation Fuels Growing Rift Between Democrats and Republicans.”

But should food really be a partisan or ideological issue?

My sense is that on this one, the silent majority of Americans is really quite moderate. They understand that, like their own personal diets, food policy requires balance. They will support commonsense regulation of meals provided by the public sector, but they also understand intuitively that we will never solve the nation’s obesity problem until we usher in a climate of renewed personal responsibility.

To be sure, when it comes to federal intervention, liberals tend to support increased regulation, while conservatives prefer that politicians use the bully pulpit to encourage positive decision-making. But at the local level, particularly here in Massachusetts, the parents crusading for stricter school food rules are just as likely to be Republicans as Democrats.

There’s surely nothing wrong with encouraging (yes, even requiring) schools to provide healthier food options for our children. But neither is there anything wrong with sending your child to school with a candy cane or Christmas cookie.

Reasonable parents understand that efforts to bring healthy, locally grown food into school cafeterias are not part of some liberal plot to destroy Sara Lee and Little Debbie. But they also recoil at the absurd idea that McDonald’s is part of some evil capitalist empire hell-bent on luring children into a lifelong addiction to grease.

Indeed, when it comes to food, most parents couldn’t be less ideological.

This Christmas, parents across the commonwealth will no doubt let their kids indulge in that second piece of gingerbread or spice cake – but only, of course, if they’ve finished their veggies.[/password]

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