Cupcakes: The New Cocaine
In efforts to stem the growing trend of childhood obesity, California lawmakers passed legislation in 2005 that restricted the sugar and fat content levels in food sold on public school campuses. The law went into effect in 2007, but outcry from parents and students against the regulations is bringing the nutritional restrictions to the notice of the national public. While the focus is currently on California, over 600 school districts across the country have similar strictures, with Kentucky campuses being subject to the strictest regulations.
But the laws effect more than just the meals and snacks sold by the schools to the students. It has also affected the age-old American tradition of bake-sale fundraisers. Cupcakes and cookies are now contraband on some campuses, leaving parents, students and organizations frustrated by this nanny-state intervention.
But aren’t these rules designed for our benefit? Since parents and students have failed to regulate their behavior, leading to ever-increasing weight gain, isn’t it the state’s responsibility to control our actions via legislation?
In a word? No.
And it frightens me that so many fail to see the harm in these kinds of laws. I won’t argue against the right state governments might have to control the public schools in their jurisdiction. What I do question is the type of mentality that would lead to the election of politicians who would dare to pass this kind of legislation. What concerns me is the willing abdication of parental rights on the part of the voters. How much more will be given up? Will we next be told what children can be fed in the privacy of our homes? After all, that’s where most of the meals are eaten and lifelong habits are formed.
History shows that this kind of prohibition simply doesn’t work. Despite federal pressure and state laws, underage children, in general, have ready access to tobacco and alcohol. Billions of dollars and legions of federal officers have done little to affect the traffic of illegal drugs and many argue that prohibition does more to increase the potential harms of illicit drug use, rather than decrease it. Laws restricting the intake of sugar and fat on a school campus seem a bit ludicrous in comparison, and even less likely to have any lasting positive effects.
Forbidden fruit is often the most desirable. Teaching children to make healthy eating choices is an admirable goal, but encouraging moderation in their habits, instead of forced abstenation, is more likely to lead to a balanced diet and a successful life in general.
But whether or not the government and schools should even have a role in this issue is still the question that parents should be asking themselves. Ought teachers and administrators to set good examples in their own public choices? Yes. Should they be able to force their choices upon their students? No. Their job is to teach skills relating to education. Raising children and deciding what they should or should not consume is the job of the parents. Abdicating these rights emboldens further interference by the government- a trend that needs to be reversed, not encouraged.