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A modest suggestion for the first lady
WELCOME to Fredericksburg. If Our Town were a puppy, it would be wagging its tail like it was motorized. We don't get many first ladies here. Barbara Bush visited in 1984, but just to eat, and, besides, she wasn't a first lady yet. So it's a rare honor to receive you because of your unique station, made all the more salutary by the dignity with which you occupy it and the sincerity of your efforts to help a lot of people who need help.
And that's not just us talking. In a story on your visit, two local women, one a teacher, praised your personal campaign to reduce obesity, especially among children. As you have lamented many times, about one in five American kids is obese, and that doesn't count those who are less severely overweight. What you've been saying publicly has raised awareness of such sad trends, and schools, foundations, food manufacturers, and others have been taking heed.
One other unfortunate statistic is that one in four American children now is fed with the help of "food stamps"--really, the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program--and we think this potentially opens up a whole new front in your crusade to make healthier kids, because a lot of what SNAP buys contributes to the very problems you are so devotedly tackling. Sugary soft drinks, chips, processed pastries, and other foods linked to chronic illnesses are eligible for purchase under SNAP, and the nation is starting to notice.
A California group called Eat Drink Politics, for example, wants to know how much empty-calorie junk food is being bought through SNAP. "The federal government," says its chief, "should not be fueling American's epidemic of diet-related chronic disease with taxpayer money." Sounds reasonable, doesn't it? Of course, the crowning achievement of your husband's first term is the Affordable Care Act. And since it's long-term, diet-linked illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension that add billions and billions to the nation's health care tab, taxpayer subsidies of junk food seem a direct contradiction of the very purpose of the ACA.
Just before arriving in Fredericksburg, you unveiled to the country's mayors a website called "Healthy Communities Healthy Futures" that you hope can help them fight the obesity that causes or aggravates the maladies that are draining local and state health budgets. But if other elected officials--Congress and the president--restricted SNAP purchases to only relatively healthy food, mayors and governors could see big health care savings in short order.
Anyway, we hope you'll take that thought back to Washington, where we're confident that your efforts would bear fruit (not to mention vegetables, legumes, and whole grains!).
Once more, welcome to Fredericksburg. We hope the fair weather holds and that you have time to do some looking around. For a quick downtown lunch, we recommend Goolrick's, although, we hope you agree, they really should keep some hot-dog chili on the stove.