Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Mrs. Obama's Battle of the Bulge

The First Lady is out plugging a new book “American Grown” to promote growing and eating vegetables, a personal bookend to her husband’s campaign to get voters on a healthier political diet.

As Mitt Romney comes under fire for dissing Planned Parenthood, Michelle Obama is on a campaign that also strikes close to home and, below the surface, has its own aspects of division by social, ethnic and economic class.

Obesity researchers long ago found that, beyond the question of cost, poor people tend to subsist on starchy diets—-beans and rice, pasta, potatoes—-for psychic reasons as well, the immediate rush of satisfaction that comes with them.

In recent years, fast food and sugared drinks have augmented those traditional ethnic sources, creating an overweight problem among the least privileged Americans.

As today’s Downtown Abbey crowd dines fastidiously on expensive meat, fish and baby vegetables, secure in its own sense of importance, millions are still filling their stomachs with nutritionally inferior stuff that is available cheap and fast.

The First Lady’s effort to bridge that gap is commendable, but older observers will recall a classic cartoon in the New Yorker of a mother saying “It’s broccoli, dear” and a bratty kid exclaiming “I still say it’s spinach and I say to hell with it.”

That was in 1928. Some things never change.  
 
Update: In New York, the city’s Mayor is taking steps to do what neither of the Obamas has the power to do, banning the sale of large sugary drinks in nearly all restaurants, movie theaters and street food carts. But Bloomberg is a billionaire and an Independent, and he isn’t running for president this year.

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