Overweighty Matters

This column was the featured commentary on UPI’s Religion and Spirituality Forum and was linked on the UPI home page on September 17, 2007.

There is an obesity epidemic in the United States. A quick peruse of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website paints a disturbing picture: the populations of every state have increased in average girth. Children, in particular, are increasingly obese. The Centers for Disease control reports that since 1976 obesity in children has grown from 5.0% to 13.9% among children between two and five years old. For those aged 6–11 years, prevalence increased from 6.5% to 18.8%; and for those aged 12–19 years, prevalence increased from 5.0% to 17.4%.

There are many culprits in the rise in American weight: we’re not getting enough exercise (in part because we watch too much TV), we’re eating junk by the mega calorie, and we’re sloughing off these bad habits onto our children, particularly if our children are poor and must rely upon school meals subsidized by the United States Farm Bill—an unhealthy bit of legislation that ensures our nation’s school children will be fed a diet high in fat and carbohydrates comprised of highly processed corn and soy byproducts (chicken nuggets and pop-tarts show up with alarming frequency on the menu at my daughter’s inner-city elementary school).

Meanwhile, the only person whose weight has caught the national attention is Britney Spears. Continue reading

Farm Bill On My Mind

This column ran as the featured commentary on UPI’s Religion and Spirituality Forum on August 6, 2007.
I wish the farm bill had a bigger place in the Great American Discourse.

Every five years, our elected leaders in Washington have the opportunity to set the policies that apportion federal subsidies given to America’s farmers, and when the farm bill comes up for renewal it is a great opportunity to ask some very basic, very important questions.

How do we want to eat? What kind of food do we want to feed America’s poor children who take advantage of the school breakfast and lunch programs that are underwritten by the federal farm bill? Which farmers and what kind of farming should derive the greatest benefit from federal financial aid? Continue reading