In the 1920s, the government outlawed alcohol. We became a dry nation . . . sort of. The ban gave rise to hundreds of speakeasies, secrets stores and backwoods moonshine. No one was drinking in public, but no one had stopped drinking either. And in between sips, the “alcohol-free” citizens were letting the government know they weren’t happy. Today we’re facing a similar outlaw, an outlaw on food. Over the past several years, schools, senior citizens and similar establishments have begun banning fats, sugars and empty calories. The reaction? Well, it’s a little 1920s reminiscent.
When the prohibitions started, the public accepted them in good faith. No peanuts? Okay. Limited candy in the goody bags? Not a problem. No soda . . . Well, the parents were behind it. The kids, on the other hand, responded in speakeasy style, selling the sugary substances from their lockers, much to the horror of adults. But when the food-police tried to take away cupcakes, the children got a powerful ally: their parents. Outraged mothers and fathers could not understand the removal of a classic birthday treat. They threatened lawsuits (which didn’t happen) and ranted through PTA meetings. How far was this going to go? Apparently, as far as doughnuts. New York’s Putnam County banned doughnuts and similar donated baked goods in its senior centers. In response, seniors formed picket lines, complete with signs that proclaimed “They’re Carbs, Not Contraband.” The outraged elderly demanded the return of their sweets, disgusted with the restriction. As of yet, the revolts have done nothing more than generate media and questions. Who is right? Are the bans good or bad?
The answers would depend on who you ask and probably which situation you’re examining. In the case of the seniors, there’s the matter of respect. They are, after all, adults. Shouldn’t we give them some say in what they eat? But, the case of the kids isn’t quite as clear cut. They’re children. They need some guidance. The problem is when is that guidance going too far? When is it no longer preventing obesity but rather creating detrimental food habits? By outlawing foods, are we drawing a line between good and bad foods, a line that is often found in eating disorders? Or are we, by simple deprivation, making the contraband all the more enticing? Are the kids now gorging every time a sweet is offered, because they don’t know when they next one will appear? All of this has to be considered in the removal of treats. We can’t make our children unhealthily obsessed with their bodies, restrictions and indulgences. We can’t blindly eliminate foods in the name of nutrition. If it’s going to be done, it has to be done properly. It’s up to us – it’s up to the banners to figure out how.