Former Ag Secretary John Block – “Obesity”

O.K., I think we have to accept the fact that we have an obesity problem here in this country. So what should we do?

The simple answer is, more exercise and consume less calories. A good place to start is with the kids. Schools are bringing back gym classes. Secretary Vilsack and the USDA are pushing new school lunch standards to fight obesity and improve nutrition. I think that is a good idea for two reasons. First, fighting obesity is a worthwhile objective. Second, if my tax dollars are being spent to feed children, then the food should not be contributing to a national obesity problem. At the same time, if the kids go down the street and gorge themselves on cup cakes, cookies, pizza, sugar snacks, and they pay for it with their own money, that’s not my business.

The distinction that I draw here is that taxpayer money should not be spent on food that makes you fat.

However, we have to be careful we don’t go too far. In a North Carolina elementary school, they inspected the home made lunches brought to school by the children and found that one girl just didn’t have a healthy enough lunch. That lunch didn’t comply with USDA guidelines. So what! The government didn’t pay for that lunch. The government has no business telling people what they have to eat.

Another example of where the school went a little too far is in Los Angeles. The school changed the menu in the cafeteria to be more healthy. That included black bean burgers, tostada salad, etc. The students wouldn’t eat it. The school principal reports massive waste. Uneaten entries being thrown away. The whole exercise has created a new underground market for chips, candy, and fast food. Don’t be surprised, but hamburgers have returned to that school menu.

The transition to a less fattening menu is not going to be easy. Will it help to solve our obesity problem is another question.
Many schools have banned the sale of sugar drinks, candy, and salty snacks in their vending machines. A recent comprehensive study concludes that it doesn’t work.

Here is where I am on this subject. If the government is paying for the food and drink, then the government can decide what to serve. Consistent with that idea – food stamp choices should be limited. Because I’m paying for those food stamps. That’s a subject for another day.
In closing, I would encourage you to access my website which archives my radio commentaries dating back 10 years and will go back 20 years when complete. Check on what I said back then. Go to

Until next week, I am John Block in Washington is dedicated to serving the agricultural industry in the Carolinas and Virginia with the latest ag news, exclusive regional weather station readings, and key crop market information. The website is a companion of the Southern Farm Network, provider of daily agricultural radio programming to the Carolinas since 1974. presents radio programs, interviews and news relevant to crop and livestock production and research throughout the mid-Atlantic agricultural community.