'Just eat it:' Michelle Obama pushes produce

11/13/2009 08:45:01 AM
Larry Waterfield

First Lady Michelle Obama may have done for the produce business what it has not been able to do for itself: coin a really compelling slogan.

Larry Waterfield
Columnist

At a health fair for kids on the White House lawn she told them not to complain about eating fresh produce.

“Don’t whine, just eat it,” she told them.  One can imagine a poster of a kid facing a cornucopia of produce with the slogan, “Just Eat it!”

Of course she joins generations of moms who have said some variation of that: “Shut up and eat your veggies.”

It’s great advice. We can argue about whether it works.

The Packer, in an editorial, called Michelle Obama’s efforts “a force for good.”

She’s pushed for more fresh produce and better nutrition in schools, and planted a home garden. 

She has even named a White House chef, Sam Kass, 29, who is also described as a “food policy wonk” who sits in on health and nutrition strategy meetings and pushes for a better diet.

She joins Barbara Bush, first lady when George H.W. Bush was president, in championing produce. Mrs. Bush famously backed fresh produce when her husband complained he didn’t like broccoli.

The industry responded by sending the White House a truckload, which Mrs. Bush graciously accepted, with plenty of publicity.

Hillary Clinton, as first lady, famously said, “I’m not sittin’ around baking cookies.”

And she didn’t, but she did have some foodie events at the White House — I remember attending one.

She also tried unsuccessfully to reform the entire U.S. health system — and held secret meetings to do it. That created a firestorm of opposition and a backlash against a federal takeover of health care.

President Obama may be on the verge of doing what Hillary Clinton could not do. The House of Representatives passed the massive health care reform bill by a razor-thin majority of 220 to 215. 

That’s a scary vote because something so big with so many changes ought to have broad support from both parties. The founding fathers believed this. Thomas Jefferson warned against making big changes without wide support.

(This column pointed out months ago that the president might have the votes to push through a bill without any support from Republicans.)

The country, including business, is split on the reforms. The AARP, representing retirees, supports it. The American Medical Association endorsed it. But the National Federation of Independent Business opposes it because of the employer mandate to provide health insurance or face big taxes and penalties. In addition, the bill will let the government decide just what kinds of insurance can be offered.


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