by Ned Cantwell: CNJ columnist
New Mexico legislators, to their credit, are most concerned about the health of their constituents.
Wander around any lobbyist-sponsored evening reception and you will run upon clusters of lawmakers eating sausage cheese balls, drinking whisky sours, and talking about the health needs of the folks back home. At times the conversations are rushed if one or more of the lawmakers is looking to duck out of the double doors for a quick cigarette.
But it is the thought that counts, and there is a lot of healthy thinking going on these days in Santa Fe. Someone thought up the clever idea of strapping House and Senate members, plus Gov. Bill Richardson, with pedometers.
By the end of the session, we are going to find out who does the most walking, the contest aimed at drawing attention to healthful lifestyles and focusing attention on the session’s nutrition and health-related bills.
One would think Gov. Bill has the edge in this competition, given the fact that during his routine walking day he needs to make several detours to the snack shop to replenish his supply of super-sized Snicker’s bars.
Not to be written off are those House members who pedometer on over to the fancy restaurant for lunch with representatives of the vending machine companies who will make it worth the legislators’ while to keep the supply of Ding Dongs flowing in New Mexico schools.
One of the pieces of legislation floating around the merry Roundhouse would require the Public Education Department to develop rules on which food items and beverages could be sold or distributed in public schools.
School nutrition has become a buzz phrase around the country as society focuses on advancing obesity. Kids prefer junk foods that are not good for them. There was even a federal study on the subject. The government found that given a choice between a healthy school lunch and something from the vending machine, say a bag of cheese puffs, the kids would choose the cheese puffs.
At the risk of disrespect for my government, may I suggest that study falls under the category of “duh?” You could have spent two hours with any of my grandkids and come up with the same conclusion.
Eating junk food is bad for kids. That’s not the question. The question is, whose responsibility is it to fix the problem? Those who fear Big Brother will argue it is not the responsibility of the federal government, which has established nutrition policies, nor the responsibility of the New Mexico government, currently wrestling with the junk food issue.
Then, perhaps, the responsibility falls to each individual school district. That makes sense, except school districts won’t deal with it because school districts, first, make money from junk food and, second, school boards traditionally avoid tough issues like school kids avoid fat-free yogurt.
So, then, the responsibility ultimately rests on the shoulders of the parents themselves. Now, this really does make sense except too many parents enforce absolutely nothing. So in the end, it looks as if we are going to have a nation of fat kids. But there will probably have to be another federal study to make sense of it all.
Ned Cantwell is a syndicated columnist living in Ruidoso. He eats Ding Dongs and he has been called one. Contact him at: