C.S. Lewis and the food police

“It may be better to live under robber barons,” wrote the British author, “than under omnipotent moral busybodies.” [Barton Hinkle, Richmond Times-Dispatch] The federal government is preparing new rules restricting snack foods available through local schools, “which could include banning the candy sold for school fund-raisers,” notwithstanding a recent study finding no link between vending machine availability and child obesity [New York Times] And a blog supporter of bans on birthday cupcakes and soda machines in schools responds to her critics [Bettina Elias Siegel, “The Lunch Tray” and more]

P.S. And thanks to Pete Warden in comments for the relevant George Orwell quote.


  • The relationship between vending machine availability and obesity is necessarily on point to the central issue. I don’t think it is a leap to suggest that greater availability of bad foods leads to the consumption of bad foods.

    I certainly would support schools doing more to encourage good eating habits which would exclude tacit approval of junk food with local fundraisers. I disagree with the idea that there should be a federal law dealing with the issue.

  • If a school accepts federal monies, the school is obligated to obey federal rules. However, if a school does not receive federal dollars, federal rules do not apply.

  • I suggest the food police be required to watch Woody Allen’s “Sleeper,” to get a perspective on these so called studies. Eggs are no longer killers, red wine has medicinal qualities, etc.
    What is a problem is that PC and the plaintiff’s bar have destroyed the rough and tumble of recess-you can no longer run around playing tag, nor play dodge ball, or engage in the many ACTIVE games that occupied us and burnt off calories. As I see it, kids today are condemned to milling around discussing Obama, fashion trends, or computer games, but no healthy activities allowed.

  • George Orwell is worth quoting at length on the topic of attempts to improve the working class’s eating habits:

    “The basis of their diet, therefore, is white bread and margarine, corned beef, sugared tea, and potatoes–an appalling diet. Would it not be better if they spent more money on wholesome things like oranges and wholemeal bread or if they even, like the writer of the letter to the New Statesman, saved on fuel and ate their carrots raw? Yes, it would, but the point is that no ordinary human being is ever going to do such a thing. The ordinary human being would sooner starve than live on brown bread and raw carrots. And the peculiar evil is this, that the less money you have, the less inclined you feel to spend it on wholesome food.

    A millionaire may enjoy breakfasting off orange juice and Ryvita biscuits; an unemployed man doesn’t. Here the tendency of which I spoke at the end of the last chapter comes into play. When you are unemployed, which is to say when you are underfed, harassed, bored, and miserable, you don’t want to eat dull wholesome food. You want something a little bit ‘tasty’.”

  • Maybe George Orwell would change his mind in 2012 if he was running a business and paying approximately $6 zillion in health care benefits. He might just say, you know what, encourage the common man to eat a carrot just once in while. It can’t hurt.

  • Ron, what other activities do you thing the Federal Government should control for our own good? How about compulsory exercise in from of our two-way TV? For someone who claims that juries get it right, you seem to have a lot of disdain for the common man.

  • That’s a strawman, Ron. The government is not content to encourage. I grew up in the era (in the not too distant past) that the government encouraged us all to engage in very high carbohydrate intake (11 servings a day!) and substitute vegetable fats (i.e., partially hydrogenated trans fats) instead of just eating meat and animal fats, which, in retrospect, was probably regrettable advice. Pardon me for not feeling encouraged about the government’s next great experiment on the citizenry.

  • Note the trap inherent in Mr. Miller’s 12:06 comment – the businessman (or government) chooses to provide health care benefits, then uses that as the justification for restricting individual freedoms.

  • Not control. We are talking about encourage. I’ve already said in my first comment that this should not be a law.

    Richard, even smart people can use reinforcement. The idea that we can trust juries and we should encourage people to eat well are not mutually exclusive concepts.

    L.C., again, encourage. I’m not with the government. If they get carried away, that’s not on me. We are talking policy here. I appreciate your larger point., tho. Government should not thin slice the encouragement. Carrots good. Candy bad. This advice is not going to go out of style.

    Long before Obamacare, our business was paying for our employees’ health insurance as were the vast majority of American businesses.

    You can drive a truck through the difference, folks.

  • I am not involved in education, but if I were to start a school, a private hard emphasis on classic fundamentals and discipline type of place, I would certainly exclude junk food vendors. I would point this out prominently in my brochure.
    Would any of you allow high sucrose, low nutrient foods in a school that you would design?
    I am animated not only by the nutritional problems with sucrose but also by the way its producers have long used the government in the form of agricultural production quotas and embargos against lower cost extranational producers.
    You can’t fight every battle. This Dulcinea is not what you think.

  • I think that’s a fine thing, Slugger and I think a lot of parents would find it a good thing. Assuming the other points of the school were up to snuff, it would be a fine selling point.

    Mandating it for everything is wrong. Education is admirable. Good choices are excellent. It is, however, a matter of choice.


  • It’s more than just wanting a ‘tasty’ meal, crap food is just cheaper. I have been diagnosed with celiac, along with such acute lactose intolerance, it should be called lactose racism. Since 90% of cheap, junk food includes wheat or dairy, I have seen my food bills go up as a result. It takes twice as much ‘healthy’ food sometimes to achieve that same level of ‘full’ I used to get from splitting a pepperoni pizza with cheese, with enough left over for a cold slice or two for breakfast.

  • I’ve been quite interested to read these comments, as well as the over 70 that have come in to date on the original post over at The Lunch Tray. I won’t belabor my points here – you can head over to TLT if you want join in the debate, where some readers sharing the views espoused here continue to take me on. But I did want to let you know that on TLT’s Facebook fan page there’s now a movement afoot to get t-shirts printed up bearing the words “Omnipotent Moral Busybody.”

  • A reader of The Lunch Tray (perhaps finding me through Overlawyered) has argued forcefully that it’s not the school’s job to ban in-class treats, it’s my job as a parent to instill in my children the “backbone” to resist. As I’m guessing this is a view commonly held by most readers of this blog, I’m sharing my exchange with this reader (now its own post) here: http://www.thelunchtray.com/in-class-birthday-treats-a-reader-says-my-kids-just-need-the-backbone-to-resist/

  • As the parent of a 7 year old boy I know there is no chance of instilling in him the “backbone” to resist a treat. But the treat is not a problem worth resisting. Instead I have the backbone to allow my son to burn off all that energy through vigorous play — in other words, to permit his indulgence in both pleasures. Many modern parents seem to believe that the only suitable option is the reverse, i.e., having denied the play, then must also deny the treat.