Meredith Carroll: Mrs. Carroll goes to Washington |

Meredith Carroll: Mrs. Carroll goes to Washington

Meredith Carroll
Muck Off

If I wasn’t sure he’s not my guy when he ate what appeared to be the booger that was perched precariously on his lip during a televised debate in March, Ted Cruz confirmed his tastes and mine are incompatible when he announced his wife’s plans to immediately return french fries to school cafeterias if he’s elected president.

Cruz may have been inanely trying curry the favor of middle school kids who legally cannot vote when he made the comment, although he was more likely taking a jab at Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative, which spawned the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. However, after seeing Obama — and her biceps — in person last month at the White House, I’d strongly advise Cruz against poking her too hard.

The first lady’s muscles were on full display when other writers who’ve covered the topic of parenting and I were invited to her home for a conversation on the health of our nation’s children. Cruz and his party mates have long made a sport of mocking Obama’s efforts to provide better nutrition for our nation’s kids, even if their actual setups and punch lines are tough to discern and even more difficult to laugh at when the facts are laid bare, including how one-third of kids in this country are obese. The White House says treating the effects of obesity currently costs nearly $200 billion annually. That figure will rise to roughly $350 billion by 2018 and then to more than half a trillion dollars by 2030.

While the figures are alarming — both the number of children affected and the cost to the United States — they would be even graver were it not for Let’s Move. Debra Eschmeyer, the program’s executive director and the Obama administration’s senior policy adviser for nutrition, said at the White House meeting that since the inception of Let’s Move, 1.6 million kids now attend day care centers offering fruits and vegetables instead of juice and cookies, 2 million students have salad bars in school, more than 10 million youth strive to get 60 minutes of physical activity at school every day and more than 30 million of them have access to more nutritious school breakfasts and lunches. The result is that the rise in the number of obese children is slowing for the first time in three decades, and in the case of toddlers and preschoolers, it’s actually declining.

But eating healthy and staying active is hard work. Making fun of those trying to implement wholesome and lasting changes, on the other hand, is easy. Just a few days ago, The Federalist published a diatribe dismissing Let’s Move as a “laughable legacy” of the Obama administration, referencing how it came into existence when Obama realized she needed to alter the eating habits of her own family.

“Michelle apparently can’t work a crock pot, so she takes it out on everybody,” said one source in the piece.

That may be a good one-liner, except Let’s Move isn’t just a ladies-who-lunch, feel-good, “Hey look, I’m doing something other than picking out china” kind of task. Its impact on lives and the economy is tangible. For instance, a program of Let’s Move called Smart Snacks in Schools mandates nutritional standards for food and drinks available for purchase in schools. Eschmeyer cited a Harvard study outlining that the net savings to society in obesity-related health costs for each dollar spent will be $4.56 if the program goes nationwide, making it “one of the most important national obesity-prevention policy achievements in recent decades,” the study’s authors said.

Obama announced her intention to continue working on Let’s Move when her husband leaves office next year, giving the issue “the rest-of-my-life kind of timeframe,” she said. Others who believe in healthy children and also the economy, though, would be wise to try to ensure another like-minded woman moves into 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. when the Obamas’ lease expires.

According to The Nation, “Having more women in office not only upholds democratic values of ‘fairness’ and ‘representative government,’ but various studies have also shown that the presence of more women in legislatures makes a significant difference in terms of the policy that gets passed.” The magazine cited the book “Patterns of Democracy” when making a correlation between women in office and more progressive policy on the environment, macroeconomic management, comprehensive support for families and individuals, violence prevention, and incarceration. Women legislators also introduce more bills on civil rights, education, labor and health.

Indeed, Hillary Clinton said in 2012, “Women are the largest untapped reservoir of talent in the world. It is past time for women to take their rightful place, side by side with men, in the rooms where the fates of peoples, where their children’s and grandchildren’s fates, are decided.”

It’s one thing to debate abortion, vaccinations, military spending, tax cuts and climate change — or even what, exactly, to call french (freedom?) fries. However, no one would ever oppose a prevention or cure for cancer. And yet the health of children and the financial consequences thereof have been reduced to a partisan wisecrack. Let those who mock it eat cake, although let’s hope their children are taught better behaviors in school.

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