The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) has been around since 1985, and its founder, Neal Barnard, is still active and articulate. He would like to see milk and all its relatives kicked out of school cafeterias, and that includes grilled cheese sandwiches and pizza with cheese. Until that is accomplished, more beverage options are needed, he believes, as he told journalist Jessica Camille Aguirre:
The milk requirement is entirely cultural and business-based, and it has nothing to do with health. The dairy industry is an extremely powerful lobby. And parents and kids think it’s normal to drink milk. But it’s not biologically normal; it’s just culturally normal.
Playing on the First Lady’s Let’s Move! program, one of the PCRM‘s slogans is, “Let’s move cheese out of my school lunch.” The group sees milk products as the chief villain in the childhood obesity epidemic. Sure, kids need calcium so they don’t get rickets. But calcium is found in sweet potatoes, beans, and figs. Critics have deemed the nonprofit organization’s cheese-dissing billboards and posters “obnoxious and offensive.”
Last month, just before Mrs. Obama visited London for the Olympics, the group chastised her for abandoning the effort toward American diet reform. Like many others, the PCRM members see the switch of emphasis from nutrition to exercise as a betrayal, a craven attempt to kiss up to the powerful food industry whose influence might help her husband to be reelected. They even got up a petition to request that the president not eat junk food in the public eye.
The PCRM, and specifically nutrition education director Susan Levin, say:
The Let’s Move campaign needs to address the causes of obesity in America, not sweep them under the rug. The sputtering ‘Let’s Move’ campaign needs to get back in gear.
At an appearance in Philadelphia in July, Mrs. Obama announced the new website designed to further the Let’s Move! agenda, with information on how elected officials in cities, towns, and counties can start or improve nutrition and exercise programs, and how they can find funding to pay for the anti-childhood obesity programs.
A civic leader who wants to join up has to identify and commit to five goals that the particular community can achieve. Journalist JoAnn Loviglio adds some unintentional humor in this paragraph reporting the First Lady’s speech:
‘I know that all of the leaders have to make some very hard choices to keep their cities, towns and counties afloat,’ Obama said. ‘But fortunately, when it comes to helping our kids lead healthier lives, it doesn’t take big money to get big results.’ The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has provided a $1 million grant to kick off the new component of the ‘Let’s Move!’ initiative.
Is our age showing? There was a time when a million dollars was considered big money. But, of course, compared to the amounts spent by food industry lobbyists to have their way in Washington, a million is a mere drop in the bucket.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “School Lunch Milk Cartons Take A Hit In New Ad Campaign,” NPR.org, 08/08/12
Source: “Health Group Slams Michelle Obama’s ‘Let’s Move’ Anti-Obesity Campaign,” Inland Valley News, 08/01/12
Source: “First lady in Pa. urges good nutrition, exercise,” SFGate.com, 07/19/12
Image by PCRM.