Can I Just Tell You?Can I Just Tell You? NPR's Michel Martin gives a distinct take on news and issues

Sarah Palin Should Stop Grinding Her Sweet Tooth

chocolate chip cookie

It's important to watch what we eat, and to know where it came from. But sometimes it's nice to indulge a little too! iStockphoto.com hide caption

itoggle caption iStockphoto.com

It's holiday time and, if you are like me, you are probably enjoying a cookie or two or three and maybe, also because it's Chanukah, a jelly donut on the side.

And, I don't know, maybe all that sugar that so many of us are putting away is hyping up Obama critics, who, not content to seek a repeal of health care reform, are now taking a swipe at the Obamas’ healthy eating initiative.

I read about this in Judith Warner's column last week in the Sunday New York Times. She wrote about how former Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin decided to bring some cookies to share at a private Christian school she was visiting to, as she  tweeted, "intro kids 2 beauty of laissez-faire."

Let's look past the fact that, as a private Christian school, the kids would not have had to follow the kind of guidelines for school lunch that the Obama administration, along with a lot of parent activists (it should be said), are attempting to bring to the public schools, which are the schools that 90 percent of American children attend.

But as I said, never mind that. It's that laissez-faire thing I was interested in, because it turns out that billions of dollars in federal funds are delivered every year to support the kinds of crops used to make, well, cookies (and the milk to go with it).

The programs are part of what's called the farm safety net, and these are payments to farmers and landlords which are intended to protect the farming community against economic risk, and they typically go to major commodities like wheat and corn, which will end up in that corn syrup in your pecan pie, and sugar, as well as the milk to wash it all down … and let's not forget the cotton for your Christmas sweater.

According to a report by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service published in July of this year, the combined outlays for farm safety net programs have averaged $15.7 billion a year during FY 2003 to 2010. And that's not expected to change much in the next ten years.

Don't get me wrong. Food security is important, so the economic well being of the farmers who grow food is important. But to imply that the government has nothing to do with what we eat and how much of what we eat is laughable.

On top of that, the level of support for some crops, traditional commodities like wheat and corn, far outstrips the support available for most fresh fruits and vegetables, let alone the kind of specialty crops or organic foodstuffs that have recently made their way into many urban markets and become another thing for people who think they are real Americans to ridicule the smart set about.

I think it's worth mentioning that one of the reasons the Obamas, Mrs. Obama in particular, has taken on healthy eating is that so many Americans are not only overweight, they are obese. It is becoming a crisis in higher health costs and also in the alarming number of potential military service members who can't qualify for military service because they are physically unfit.

This administration's focus on healthy eating is, in some ways, going back to the future. Many people now forget that the school lunch program exists, in part, because too many kids in earlier generations were too under-nourished to get through basic training, now it's the opposite problem.

Anyway, it's good to talk about what we eat and how much, if for no other reason than it's not just a private matter. The food we get, its quality and availability is not just a matter of your own skill in the garden or with a shotgun. That makes a nice story, but that's not the world we live in.

And, yes, I'll take that last chocolate chip, if you don't mind.

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Can I Just Tell You?Can I Just Tell You? NPR's Michel Martin gives a distinct take on news and issues