From celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s TV show Food Revolution to the recent launch of Michelle Obama’s childhood obesity initiative, lots of big names are focusing on changing what kids eat in school as a way to promote healthier diets. Reforming school lunches is a tricky strategy, given kids’ picky tastes (and made worse by activist groups like the phony Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine trying to put its vegan agenda on the menu). But other proposals to fight obesity in schools raise an eyebrow due to their heavy-handedness. So when The New York Times gave us the opportunity to debate U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in Upfront Magazine about whether candy and soda should be banned from schools, we threw our chef's hat into the ring.
Vilsack argues that schools should ban sweet-tasting treats, writing that “it doesn't mean the end of vending machines in schools; it means stocking them with more nutritious offerings to make healthy choices available to students.” We take the opposite point of view, arguing that restricting choices through bans robs children of the opportunity to learn important lessons about personal responsibility:
The problem with government intervention in this area is that it erodes personal responsibility rather than encouraging it.
When the government gets involved in forcing kids to change their diet—in this case by banning soda and candy in schools—it undermines students' ability to learn how to make healthy decisions for themselves.
As anyone who has tried to lose weight is likely to tell you, going "cold turkey" and avoiding tempting foods is setting yourself up for failure, and that's exactly what banning particular foods will do. Researchers call this the "forbidden fruit theory," because we often crave things we're not allowed to have.
Read the whole piece here.