Monday, June 27, 2011

Detour: Open Letter to Michelle Obama

Dear Mrs. Obama:

I am writing to discuss your campaign, surely a worthwhile one, against childhood obesity in our country.

I have just completed a cross-country driving trip that took my family and I on a 5,000 mile journey from California to Massachusetts. While I have seen many extraordinary things along my travels, I have also witnessed a plethora of menus that would curl your toes and people sitting behind those menus who, let's just say could have benefited from the type of campaign you have embarked on some years back. It has been no less than a strenuous and continual struggle to eat anywhere close to properly as a 6-7-month pregnant woman also feeding her young child while crossing the (ample) midsection of the United States.

That battle for nutrition was one of the major reasons I was thrilled to arrive in your adopted hometown and former home of mine, Washington, D.C. Thinking nothing of our ability to find a decent lunch while out and about in the city, my family began our day at the Air and Space Museum.

I recently learned that this building is the second most-visited one on the planet (the first being Paris' Louvre Museum). And so, I took my place as one of millions this year that will examine exhibits about the physics of flying, marvel at the bravery and foolishness of those early enthusiasts with not much more than a wing and a prayer, take in the accomplishments of the first African-Americans in flight, wonder about the future of space exploration, and lots more.

And when lunchtime came, we migrated to the food court. There we would make a grave and upsetting discovery: McDonald's. McDonald's, as you may know, or not, has a 100% monopoly on the food options at Air and Space. McDonald's, Mrs. Obama.

Should I have counted for you the number of ice cream stands within the food court? Should I even bother to go so far as to challenge you to find a healthy meal under the (deep-fried) golden arches? Much less a healthy vegetarian meal? The signs posted about McDonald's commitment to the health and well-being of children only caused me to grow more upset. How dare this corporate giant of salt and fat, whose food literally won't even rot, try to school me on health.

I think I know how to eat well, Mrs. Obama. And I think you do, too. It is not at McDonald's. We cannot make people eat well, but the issue is choice.

While clearly, we could go elsewhere for food, to do so was impractical given our immediate hunger and our schedule. We were left to pick at a greasy pizza and some sugared up yogurt. By the time I found myself in the glitzy food court of Air and Space, I had already been a prisoner of poor food options for thousands of miles. My patience was tried. My children deserve better.

Do you sincerely want McDonald's representing a government-maintained, U.S. citizen-owning institution of culture such as the Smithsonian Museums? I would respectfully request that you investigate the issue of nutrition and childhood obesity as it manifests in your own backyard and as it impacts millions of visitors every year in our nation's capital.

1 comment:

Rita said...


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