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Sweet treats good for some, but not others

Published on January 7, 2011 3:01AM

Last changed on February 4, 2011 8:19AM


One of the goals of the Obama administration, championed by first lady Michelle Obama, is to encourage people to eat a more healthful diet.

It's a laudable goal. Obesity is epidemic in America. Improving the nutrition of Americans would reduce diabetes, heart disease and a host of associated ills.

To that end, through legislation and regulation the administration has sought to eliminate empty and fattening calories and put more fruit and vegetables in the nutrition programs administered by the Department of Agriculture.

No place is the effort more intense than the school lunch program. There the government has all but declared schools "no treat" zones.

So it was with a certain amount of irony, not lost on Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, that the USDA served "less than nutritious" snacks to a group of farm interest groups and bureaucrats assembled at Washington headquarters for a meeting.

Deputy Secretary Kathleen A. Merrigan last month hosted a forum for representatives of farm organizations, environmental groups, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and organic growers. The purpose of the meeting was to find ways growers of conventional and Roundup Ready alfalfa can co-exist. As one might imagine, there were many divergent opinions on the nature of the problem and how it could be resolved.

Vilsack invited his guests to enjoy a nice snack in the hall.

"...I'm surprised the deputy authorized chocolate chip cookies instead of fruit," Vilsack observed, according to a transcript of the event. "But that's another issue."

It is. We admit a fondness for chocolate chip cookies. Whether they're the classic Toll House recipe or Grandma's more traditional variety with oatmeal and walnuts, we find chocolate chip cookies make a fine addition to most any gathering. We don't begrudge Vilsack, Merrigan and their guests their sweet, chewy treats.

It's too bad, though, that the USDA isn't equally forgiving when it's choosing for others.


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