Worryingly, when I googled Donald Trump’s eating habits in light of his undermining of Barack Obama’s initiatives on healthy eating, I discovered that I share some of the American president’s culinary tastes.
Although I do eat my greens and try to pack in as much seasonal fruit in a day as possible, I like my steak to be well done and I hate runny eggs. Just like the Donald who, if he wasn’t so obscenely rich, I’d write off as having proletarian predilections. But thankfully, I don’t go the full hog and slather steak in Ketchup as Trump does. Now there’s common.
But jokes aside, Trump is such a reactionary old boar that he can’t even leave Obama’s food reforms in place. And it probably has little to do with conviction and everything to do with kowtowing to powerful lobby groups. Blinded by knee-jerk responses to anything that just might improve the quality of American people’s lives, Trump’s ignorance and folly is quite breath-taking.
Obamacare included a provision that required restaurant chains and other food establishments to disclose on signs and menus the amount of calories a customer could expect to consume in prepared foods and beverages. This is important. People need to know the junk quotient in the meals they’re served up and the food they purchase.
Americans consume one third of all calories outside the home, making it doubly important that menus are informative about calorific content. Obama’s calorie count rule was meant to cut obesity levels and encourage restaurants to offer healthier choices and smaller portions. It attracted widespread approval from industry groups and consumers.
But on May 4, a day before restaurants were obliged to start displaying calorie counts, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) delayed the requirement for another year. Why would such a sensible move to inform consumers about what they’re putting into their bodies, meet with delaying tactics? Needless to say, some avaricious industry groups lobbied the FDA to slow down on implementing the rule. As Mother Jones magazine points out, the National Association of Convenience Stores and the National Grocers’ Association had complained in a letter that the rule was unclear and costly. So here we have Trump and his people accommodating a sector of industry that opposes progressive policies – risking the health of families all over the US.
And as for school kids in America, their health is being dangerously toyed with thanks to the Trump administration. Recently, a press release was issued whereby the agriculture secretary “moves to make school meals great again.” How very Trumpian. Just what is the plan here? Basically, stipulations that schools must provide wholegrain-rich breads and pastas and cut down on sodium and fat levels in school lunches are to be relaxed. Yet children who eat high levels of sodium are about 35% more likely to have elevated blood pressure which is a major risk factor for heart disease and strokes.
Not that we in Ireland can smugly pat ourselves on the back when it comes to children’s welfare. We’ve heard all the arguments about the relative toxicity of the contents of vending machines in schools. All those sugar-laden fizzy drinks and chocolate bars do not ultimately make for happy campers. We have a serious obesity problem, as has the US. But just like the US under Trump, we seem to be in thrall to the economics of thrash food. A couple of years ago, it was reported in the Sunday Independent that a dietician from the Irish Heart Foundation, Sinead Shanley, said there was a distinct lack of willingness by the government to tackle the problem of vending machines in secondary schools. She suggested that it has to do with money. Schools, she said, are earning commission on vending machines – up to €4,000 per annum. And this is being used as revenue for cash-strapped schools.
School is out now but before September comes around, shouldn’t the issue of school kids and junk food be seriously addressed, without recourse to financial considerations? A lot of us abhor Donald Trump but really, when it comes to expedience, we’re not exactly shy ourselves. Schools shouldn’t have to rely on revenue, however apparently trifling, from vending machines. And while schools are keen to enlighten kids about healthy habits, if the cookie jar is open, it’s hard to resist.
Trump is some cookie when it comes to ignoring the well-being of his people. From climate change denial to a casual attitude towards junk food, he is unlikely to be seen getting his hands dirty digging in Michelle Obama’s vegetable garden in the grounds of the White House. Thankfully, Melania Trump is committed to preserving the garden. Although I can’t see her getting her pristine manicured nails grubby, pulling up lettuce from the soil. I’d say her hubbie hates lettuce.