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Michelle and Michelle face off on food

Mrs. Obama advocates for good nutrition
Mrs. Obama advocates for good nutrition
Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

There is much that has been accomplished over the years by the East Wing of the White House, the office of the First Lady. President Jefferson, historians claim, introduced America to ice cream, but it was Dolly Madison who made it popular. Eleanor Roosevelt sensitized us to the needs of the unfortunate in our land and abroad. Lady Bird Johnson made litter a foul word as she urged all to keep America beautiful. Michelle Obama is doing her best to raise consciousness to good nutrition. She is trying to stem a rising tide of obesity, and is using her influence to improve the quality of meals served in federally subsidized lunch programs at schools throughout the US.

In her most recent column Michelle Malkin takes Mrs. Obama to task. She suggests that the first lady is motivated less by idealism than by profits earned in the past by ties to the food industry; and that even as first lady she is pandering to organized labor, particularly the food service industry.

Which Michelle is correct hardly matters. The country does need to watch its waistline. The importance of good nutrition is not a matter of good science and idealism, it is common sense. Judaism urges all to be careful of their physical and mental health, both of which require good eating. Traditional Jews recite blessings before and after eating.

Yet as important as good food is for good health, food that remains uneaten has no nutritional benefit. If, as Malkin demonstrates, there are school districts cancelling federally supported meal programs because food waste cost exceeds subsidies, something is wrong!

It does not take a pundit nor an advanced degree. Taxpayers recognize that in an age of ever prevalent belt tightening, tax dollars cannot be squandered as uneaten meals go into refuse. Malkin cited districts that have cancelled federal food programs because subsidies do not keep up with losses.

One size never fits all, whether one is discussing shoes, health care, education or eating. The Obama White House, both sides, has not learned this lesson. Ideals are wonderful. Implementation requires far more than idealism. No matter how well intended, children and adults are unlikely to eat foods with which they are not familiar or that they dislike. President George H W Bush refused to eat broccoli.

In America environmental sensitivity is a guiding principal. There is nothing worse for maximizing natural resources than wastefulness. Jewish law forbids wasting resources. In Hebrew it is the principle bal tashchit.

Mrs. Obama is to be commended for her alerts to the dangers of improper eating. The solution to that problem cannot be mandated from the top. It requires major efforts at education not only of the youth, but their parents. It cannot be imposed by federal agencies at a cost that local agencies cannot bear. Lets learn from the problems that have emerged and refine food delivery. Lets continue to feed students proper lunches, but let Americans insist that lunches are designed not only per nutritional benefits, but with awareness of what children most enjoy. Balanced meals that are eaten are far more nutritious than those that end in the garbage dump.

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