Michelle Obama & Olive Garden Forge Cartel of Hypocrisy
In her squabble with childhood obesity First Lady Michelle Obama has partnered with the fast food equivalent of the sit down restaurant industry, Darden Restaurants. Darden is the parent company of such culinary counterfeits as Olive Garden, Red Lobster and LongHorn Steakhouse. The crux of their accord centers around a reduction in calories and sodium – 10% over the next five years and 20% within ten.
The meaninglessness of this partnership is many faceted. So much so that it is hard to figure out where to start but let’s begin with the obvious. The agreement between Darden and the First Lady is, in every sense of the word, nonbinding. Should Darden fail to satisfy their end of the bargain there is no penalty. It is simply a pledge. Not to mention that there is a very real possibility that in five years Mrs. Obama will no longer be the First Lady.
For Darden’s part this is likely about surviving the ever slowing economy. In exchange for pledging to reduce calories and sodium they receive a ton of free publicity. There could also be tax incentives for “the pledge” as recent history has proven that companies willing to support the President have been absolved of any tax liability and/or granted waivers from the President’s oppressive health insurance laws. No doubt another win for the Orlando-based dining corporation is that though support for the President has waned greatly since inauguration day, many are still faithful to Mrs. Obama.
Heck, I still like Michelle Obama. Although I am starting to realize that her efforts such as the White House organic garden and other partnerships with huge fast food chains are largely politically motivated one cannot argue with the positive things to come from them. More communities are planting gardens and parents are more aware of what they feed their kids. Regardless of the motivation, the outcome is positive.
Presumably Darden is counting on “the pledge” to convince parents that their food is suddenly healthy. While reducing calories is a step in the right direction calories and sodium are the least of the dangers of the Darden menu. The quality of ingredients in use at the typical Darden restaurant is on par with the GMO saturated fare you find at most of the giant fast food chains. It’s just dressed up on a plate instead of crammed into a bag.
Chief among the gastronomic affronts is Darden’s use of farm-raised imported seafood. Both Asian farmed shrimp and Chilean farmed salmon contain lethal amounts of toxins. This is the result of using chemicals to fight infection and illness in farms that contain populations hundreds of times more dense than what is found in nature.
These chemicals are banned from use in the US but are also manufactured here therefore the Big Ag companies that make them have a vested interest in the unfettered flood of imported seafood. That is why Big Ag companies like Monsanto have “invested” so heartily into the Obama White House and have been rewarded with cabinet posts for their most influential lobbyists like Michael Taylor (FDA), Regina Benjamin (Surgeon General) and Tom Vilsack (USDA).
The disastrous result this influence has had on our food system has meant ever increasing regulation on domestic, sustainable and organic foods and a dangerous lessening of the regulations over factory-farmed, imported and highly processed foods.
Under President George W. Bush a paltry 2% of imported seafood was inspected, however under President Obama that number has dropped to 1%. Furthermore that scant 1% is checked not by trained inspectors from the USDA or FDA but rather from agents of the Department of Commerce – the same people charged with conducting the US census. This is quite disconcerting considering that Red Lobster is the largest seafood chain in the US and they haven’t used US shrimp since 1971.
It is a little suspicious that the timing of this initiative between the White House and one of the world’s largest restaurant conglomerates occurs just days after lobbyists from the chain restaurant industry (including Darden) petitioned that they be allowed to accept EBT cards (food stamps) for payment on restaurant purchases. Fast food establishments were added to the list of businesses allowed to accept EBT cards right around the time a number of them decided to make token attempts to lighten their menus.
It seems that if the First Lady were genuine in her goal to improve the diet of American children she would first encourage her husband to severe his ties, both financial and political, with Big Ag companies, effectively closing the Monsanto revolving door. Then she should focus her energies on reforming the food stamp system so that EBT cards can only be used to purchase whole foods – no canned foods, bags of chips, bottles of soda, no fast food or frozen dinners – just fresh produce, proteins and dairy.
The dirty secret of the childhood obesity epidemic is that the majority of children who fall into this category live in households of the bottom 15% of wage earners. Their parents are either employed on a part-time basis or not at all. As a result they have ample time to cook meals from scratch but instead are loading down the cart with processed, high calorie, ready-to-eat foods.
Another thing that Mrs. Obama needs to do to prove she is earnest about childhood obesity is set a better example. There are literally hundreds of pictures on the Internet of her gorging on junk food like French fries and ice cream. It is starting to detract from her mission.
I don’t fault the First Lady for eating those foods; they are delicious. I certainly don’t begrudge her any weight gain. I, like many Americans have long fought the battle of the bulge. However, if Mrs. Obama continues to package herself the First Lady of Healthy Diets she has to set an example. Her well-documented weight gain from the campaign trail to today is startling and threatens (see for yourself below) to undo the good work she has already done.
The First Lady needs to make a decision, either champion a healthy lifestyle or eat whatever she wants but the hypocrisy has got to stop. America is sick and tired of an administration that repeatedly sets rules that apply to everyone except themselves. That is after all why we fought a Revolution in the 1770’s. For more about the Obama/Olive Garden pact check out this article from AP.
[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!