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Volume 68, Issue 158, Monday, July 21, 2003

Opinion
 

Eating habits begin at home

Jason Gaskamp
Guest Columnist

If any country can scrutinize a situation, it is the United States. Whether it's slamming foreign relations, the economy, or even the air we breathe, America's voices are heard. This isn't entirely bad. This scrutiny actually helps us develop and enables us to grow, but sometimes we tend to point the finger in the wrong direction.

Last week I noticed an article in USA Today on the current situation of obese children and the junk food giants that feed them. It seems corporations that market fatty foods to the public, primarily children, will be the next "Big Tobacco" culprit. The article related how companies like McDonald's, Frito-Lay and Kraft might soon come under heavy fire.

Unless big corporations begin a marketing campaign with foods aimed at children that are health-oriented, they will face lawsuits from angry parents, legislation from Congress, a wave of slandering, and bad publicity. Parents are now frustrated and angry with these corporations for their supposed lack of concern after years of gorging their children on greasy, saturated foods.

It seems our label as the world's fattest and most unhealthy country has taken root in our collective unconscious. Of course, this is nothing surprising. It bodes well with our ethnocentric values. Now that our image might be affected, we suddenly care what those Oreos and Big Macs are doing to little Tommy.

The disturbing thing is not that we are becoming conscious of our condition, but it's how we are addressing it not until the situation becomes an epidemic do parents feel the need for change. Some lawsuits have been filed against McDonalds, and Congress is proposing a "fat tax" for anything deemed unhealthy. 

All too often parents seem to shirk the responsibility of their child onto someone or something else. Day care canters must discipline the child and teach them social values. Public schools have the burden of punishing and further disciplining the child for behavior that should have been addressed at home. Now the parents can neglect their child's eating habits as well.

Sure the corporations are only marketing for the sake of money. Sure they are catering to the youth's wants and not needs. I do disagree with their campaign for marketing something that sells well instead of a healthy, quality product, but exactly why does it sell well?

Although corporate America should be conscious of its products, the final responsibility falls on the parents to protect their children and teach them strong values and good decision-making skills. This includes what they eat. We can blame the corporations, but it begins with the parent's neglect for their child's health and quality of living.

Give them fruit instead of candy bars and educate them about the importance of nutrition. Eventually children will understand the value of eating healthy. Parents, not corporations, have the obligation to teach children proper eating habits.

Gaskamp, a senior English major, 
can be reached via dccampus@mail.uh.edu.

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