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The People’s Republic of San Francisco has decreed that happiness is no longer permitted. At least, not in the form of happy meals. Or any other meals that include toys and TOO MANY CALORIES. Such meals are now banned.

Meanwhile, back in less ‘liberal’ and consequently, less authoritarian, Australia, a professor of health education and nutrition has pointed out that fears about childhood obesity have been exaggerated by the media. She goes on to say that restrictions on the availability of junk food will do lttle to resolve the problems that do exist:

“People have to stop exaggerating the numbers about childhood obesity – that’s not to say that it is not an issue but you know, hysteria, fear campaigns and exaggeration are not very scientific,” said Dr O’Dea.

Professor O’Dea also points out that childhood obesity is largely a problem for the poor. Tackling poverty, she suggests, is the best long-term way to tackle childhood obesity and many other children’s health issues.

But it seems to me that childhood obesity is evidence of one of the key attitudes that keeps some people poor.

There is nothing wrong with take aways as an occasional treat. But good quality day to day food; fresh fruit, vegetables, milk, fish, lean meat, etc, is cheaper than McDonalds or KFC.

Of course, such meals take a little longer to prepare, and need some thinking in advance.

So if take away food (take-out if you’re an American) is more expensive, why do people on low incomes eat more of it?

It is easy to claim that poverty is caused by structural injustices. And some is. The anti-development policies of organisations like Greenpeace, and their lobbying of governments and organisations like the Word Bank, have kept incomes and life spans in some third world countries much lower than they would otherwise be.

But in wealthy western countries this is less often the case. Poverty, and the disadvantages to children it causes, cannot be changed by acts of government.

‘The poor will be with you always’ Mt 26:11

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