Sarah Palin appeared on Laura Ingraham's radio show last month and criticized Michelle Obama's anti-obesity campaign as "government thinking that they need to take over and make decisions for us according to some politician or politician's wife's priorities."
President Obama today signed into law a cornerstone of Mrs. Obama's campaign -- the Child Nutrition Act -- which, among other things, finally gets more fruits, vegetables and whole grains into schoolhouses and gets junk foods and drinks out of them. In essence, the bill will help end taxpayer-subsidized classroom obesity.
Indeed, before criticizing anyone fighting the childhood obesity epidemic, Mrs. Palin should take a look at a factual snapshot of ordinary American children today. Over the last three decades, childhood obesity has tripled and, today, half of all kids in struggling, heartland communities are overweight or obese.
This crisis puts kids at risk for adult health problems like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers and strokes. It's not just our kids' health that's at risk. If this crisis isn't reversed, it will have devastating effects on our health care system, health costs and future productivity and economic growth. Equally alarming, 25 percent of 17 to 24-year-old Americans weigh too much to join the military.
Simply put, this crisis is a threat to our national security, not from an overwhelming attack of enemies abroad, but from an attack of overwhelming calories within.
Mrs. Palin is right that reversing the obesity epidemic ultimately comes down to the foods and drinks that kids put in their mouths. However, even Mrs. Palin acknowledged in a landmark speech that it's up to us to "... help children commit to personal responsibility and good character."
That's precisely what Mrs. Obama wants to do. However, contrary to Mrs. Palin's assertions, what's on the family dinner table isn't always a matter of choice. There are millions of American families who live too far from full-service grocery stores that stock healthy fresh foods. These foods aren't just harder to find, they're often out of reach financially, forcing many struggling families to buy cheaper and nutritionally empty foods and drinks.
Save the Children's U.S. Programs extends an invitation to Mrs. Palin to come visit some of the struggling communities where we work. While there, she can learn about the twin childhood obesity and poverty crises, what we're doing to help reverse them and how she and other ordinary Americans can help.
We don't have to agree on all the solutions to this epidemic. However, the question of whether there's a childhood obesity crisis threatening the next generation isn't a debate between Sarah Palin and Michelle Obama -- it's reality. Now we need to work together to do something about it. We invite Mrs. Palin to help us solve it.