Last week Keep Food Legal executive director Baylen Linnekin was a guest on To the Point, a popular, issues-driven, nationally syndicated public-radio program. Linnekin appeared on the show, hosted by Warren Olney and produced jointly by KCRW in Santa Monica and Public Radio International, to discuss with Olney and several well-known experts the issue of whether government can control obesity.
From the show's description:
The agriculture industry has made food so cheap and so plentiful that one third of Americans are obese and another third overweight. Twenty six million people have Type 2 Diabetes, with 79 million more on the way. With a major push from First Lady Michelle Obama, the federal school lunch program has been revised to limit the intake of calories, require whole grains and double the serving of fruits and vegetables. New York's Mayor Bloomberg has banned extra-large soft drinks. With predictions that half the country will be obese by 2030, it's all about controlling a spreading pandemic. But there's also a backlash. Students and teachers in Kansas went on YouTube singing, “We are Hungry." A Republican Congressman has introduced the No Hungry Kids Act. Is it necessary for government to police the diets of America's children? Will it work? Is the Nanny State just going too far?
Linnekin's fellow panelists included Marion Nestle of New York University, Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford University, and Monica Eng of the Chicago Tribune.
"From a legal perspective, I think the problem is that the USDA is both promoting agriculture and agribusiness--usually big, corporate agribusiness--while at the same time trying to design a one-size-fits-all menu for American schoolkids," says Linnekin. "It's impossible to design thoughtfully a menu that can appeal to a football player, to a kid who doesn't get enough to eat at home, to someone who eats vegan, who eat kosher, who eats halal. That sort of approach is a ludicrous attempt to micromanage, and it's bound to fail."