The House today passed The Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption Act , which may be the most absurdly named piece of legislation to appear this year. Designed to forestall lawsuits against fastfood franchises, the bill was passed just one day after a study revealed that obesity is rapidly becoming a greater health hazard than smoking.
As much as I detest the bill and the spirit behind it, this infuriated me:
Steven C. Anderson, president and CEO of the National Restaurant Assn., said in a statement: "The notion of holding restaurants and food companies legally responsible for choices all of us freely make each day, such as what to eat, when to eat and how much to eat, is absurd."
Hey, Mr. Anderson do you spend much time in the inner city? Been to South LA lately? How about my own Northwest Pasadena? "Choices" abound for those of us in affluent areas, with supermarkets and health-food stores and disposable incomes. Many folks I know (including some of my students) live in areas where there are no supermarkets; food comes from corner liquor stores and from Jack in the Box, McDonalds, or Kentucky Fried Chicken. Fast food is unhealthy. It is also relatively cheap, it is quick, and it is abundant. The urban poor in my classes don't have access to sushi and fresh vegetables, they work long hours (and commute still longer on the bus). Many come from single-parent households where the overworked adult has no time to cook. The food available on campus? Overpriced nachos, burgers, and Snickers bars.
To make choices freely, Mr. Anderson, one has to have the income to afford choices. One has to have access to the choices in the neighborhood in which one lives. And one has to have the time to prepare and consume a healthy meal. Big Macs cost less than tofu. Fried chicken wings cost less than a grilled boneless breast of chicken. Obesity is epidemic among the poor in my beloved Los Angeles, Mr. Anderson, not because of poor personal decisions but because of a lack of the very choices you celebrate. Personal responsibility matters, of course. But in order to exercise personal responsibility effectively, ya gotta have access to healthy, low-cost, time-efficient alternatives to fast food. Me? I do. I can pop into Gelson's and drop $7 on sushi and a Hansen's soda. I can afford to spend hours a day working out.
I don't make healthy choices because I am virtuous. I make them because I am fortunate. Period.
End of rant. Off to youth group...