06/03/2011 03:37 pm ET Updated Aug 03, 2011

Donut Day: A Time To Protest Nutrition Efforts?

Ready those cop-slash-confectionery punchlines: Today is National Donut Day. And yes, it's a real thing.

The holiday, which was established by the Salvation Army in 1938 to honor women who served doughnuts in World War I, is typically celebrated with deep-fried freebies.

But this year, one group is trying to make it political.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute, a non-profit group that says it stands for free markets and limited government, is calling for people to eat not one, but two doughnuts today. The idea? To protest what it described in a statement as the "government meddling in Americans' nutritional choices."

"Given the growing government attempts to regulate the childhood obesity problem, we thought this deserved some light-hearted attention," said Sam Kazman, general counsel for the group.

Ultimately, however, he said the issue was serious.

In a phone interview, Kazman called out government efforts to curb salt use. He described Michelle Obama's Let's Move initiative as "overreaching" and said it was based on shaky science, citing a recent Task Force on Childhood Obesity report that says the rapid increase in childhood obesity has slowed. But that same report showed that obesity has more than doubled among adults and tripled in children in the last 30 years.

"We're not saying there's not a problem here," Kazman said. "But for the government to be using childhood obesity as the basis for the wholesale reordering of American lifestyles is a constitutional stretch."

Dr. Marion Nestle, a professor in New York University's department of nutrition disagreed, saying that she believes an important function of the government is to advice the public on healthy eating.

"I wonder why people think it's funny to engage in risky health behavior just to show how independent they are," she said in an email. "Eating two donuts once in a while is not going to hurt anyone. But making a daily practice of eating lots of junk food might well lead to problems later on."