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[Op-Ed] White House Vegetable Garden

Posted March. 23, 2009 03:20,   


The United States has the most obese people in the world. According to the World Health Organization, the U.S. obesity rate is the highest in the world at 32 percent of the population aged 15 and older. Mexico is second with 30 percent and Britain third with 23 percent. Obesity causes a number of diseases, resulting in a huge burden in healthcare funds. Obesity is thus the leading cause of death in the United States, with the National Institutes of Health blaming 123 billion dollars in annual losses on obesity.

American housewives rarely cook at home. Many Americans eat cereal for breakfast and peanut butter sandwiches and hamburgers for lunch. Their dinner tables are filled with instant food heat up by microwave ovens. Such junk food junkies inevitably become obese. The problem is so severe that junk food is being called another form terrorism threatening U.S. security. The country has removed vending machines selling fast food at school cafeterias, but this has proven ineffective in the U.S. war on obesity.

U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama has taken up the task of changing the eating habits of Americans. In her first week at the White House, she unveiled a White House menu featuring mainly vegetables. To women from a cuisine school she invited to the White House in February, Mrs. Obama stressed the importance of consuming “tasty locally grown food.” At a soup kitchen in Washington, D.C., she hailed mushrooms and apples as food for well being. Last week, she broke ground for a White House garden to grow 55 kinds of vegetables.

Educated at Princeton and Harvard, Mrs. Obama has an educational background to rival that of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who graduated from Wellesley College and Yale University Law School. Unlike Clinton, who joined politics by heading a task force for national healthcare reform while she served as first lady, Mrs. Obama has emphasized her role as a mother and wife. For her, advocating healthy food is the best choice in national diet reform. She began an “eat healthy campaign” as a social movement to tackle America’s addiction to junk food. Her healthy appearance brings home the power of healthy food.

Editorial Writer Chung Sung-hee (shchung@donga.com)