By Count Friedrich von Olsen
I went into something of a panic early this week as I pondered exactly what I could find to write about. I concentrated but I just couldn’t come up with any ideas as this gave way to pondering, precisely, what the condition of my gray matter is at this advanced stage of my descent into decrepitude: Something akin to Swiss cheese, I surmise. A depressing thought, that! But I was rescued, you see, by none other than the State of California, which dropped some subject matter right into my lap…
As I was looking over the agenda for this week’s County Board of Supervisors meeting, it leapt right up into my cortex: The State of California is giving the County of San Bernardino what is approaching an eleven million dollar grant, $10,668,372, to be exact. That is a good thing, some might say: state money tricking down locally. Now what is wrong with that? Well, here goes: The grant, which is to come from the California Department of Public Health, will go to the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health to fight obesity. To use language put forth by Trudy Raymundo, San Bernardino County Director Department of Public Health, the grant is to be used for “providing comprehensive local nutrition education and obesity programs to assist county residents in establishing healthy eating habits and physically active lifestyles for the prevention of nutrition related chronic diseases (e.g., type II diabetes, hypertension, and heart related problems such as atherosclerosis).”
Ms. Raymundo told the board the money will be spend on “individual and group education, along with multi-level interventions and activities will be conducted. The aim is to engage residents and partners in developing policies, systems, and environmental changes in organizations and communities across the County that support improved nutrition. As required by the state, the Department of Public Health will use these funds to collaborate and subcontract with other entities within the county to improve nutritional status and prevent obesity among the county’s low income population. This ongoing effort is expected to reach 35,000 individuals annually.” According to Ms. Raymundo, $10,668,372 is meant to cover programs for three years running, over the period of October 1, 2016 through September 30, 2019, at a rate of $3,556,124 annually…
In the interest of full disclosure here, I may have some personal issues that inhibit my sensitivity on this obesity issue. I am somewhat underweight. I have been so my entire life. I am described by one of my nearly life long acquaintances as “imperially slim.” (That should not be a surprise; I am after all, the Count!). And I understand that much of this weight issue is a matter, really, of genetics. I do not, for example, look down on those with weight problems. I do not think it is weakness of character that causes one to pack on the pounds. It is, for the most part, I believe a function of the metabolisms we inherited from our parents, our grandparents, our great grandparents, great great grandparents, all the way back to Adam and Eve or the apes in the trees or wherever it was that our ancestors originated…
My concern here is that this is an unrealistic undertaking and we are putting too much money into it. Isn’t it already recognized that being too fat is unhealthy? Isn’t being thin already something of a social ideal? And what need is there to reinforce that? Some things are self evident. I would think that if you are overweight you already know that. I am constantly reminded, every time I see my reflection in a mirror or glass that I am, ahem, imperially slim. I can’t imagine this self recognition factor would be any different for anyone of a different body mass.
And exactly how is this money to be spent? “The focus” according to Ms. Raymundo, “is to help low-income Californians establish healthy eating habits and
encourage a physically active lifestyle to prevent the onset of nutrition related chronic diseases…”
Are we to hire alimentary police? Will they patrol the restaurants and other dens of public gestation? I can imagine, “Hey you, yeah you, Fatso, drop that cheeseburger. One more bite, and I’ll shoot…”
Surely, I jest. Still, I hope my point has been made. Is this a wise expenditure of our public money when there are better things to be done?
By Count Friedrich von Olsen