Was childhood obesity a real concern or pretext for Iowa's governor?  

Bernie Scolaro is a retired school counselor, a past president of the Sioux City Education Association, and former Sioux City school board member.

My mother used to make our lunches and send us off to school. Our packed lunch consisted of something like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and for dessert, something like a Hostess Ho Ho or Ding Dong. I would come home and have a snack, usually a couple of chocolate chip cookies. At dinner, my parents always wanted to make sure my siblings and I ate everything on our plate—after all, people were “starving to death in Biafra.”  

I was never heavy, but I do remember my mother calling me “pleasantly plump” a few times. I guess that phrase made it more “pleasant” to carry a little more weight. My mother never looked to Governor Nelson D. Rockefeller to tell me when or how much to eat. That was personal and a family matter, certainly not political.

Governor Kim Reynolds recently rejected $29 million of federal funding, which could have provided $40 a month to feed underprivileged children in Iowa this summer. Her stated rationale was, “Federal COVID-era cash benefit programs are not sustainable and don’t provide long-term solutions for the issues impacting children and families. An EBT card does nothing to promote nutrition at a time when childhood obesity has become an epidemic.”

First, what happened to her belief in legislation putting “parents in the driver’s seat”? Wasn’t that the whole premise behind school vouchers and letting parents choose where they send their children to school? How about Senate File 496 and parents’ right to keep books out of school libraries, nicknames from being used without parental permission, as well as making sure trans students are outed to their parents? 

Secondly, if childhood obesity is such a concern for our governor, why didn’t Reynolds discuss her hope for legislation combating this issue during her Condition of the State address on January 9? Did I miss her proposals? Did I somehow miss her data and analytical breakdown about the dangers of junk food? Did I miss her talk about wanting to increase funding for exercise programs, or for efforts to address mental health and eating disorders in particular? 

If she were serious, our governor would follow First Lady Michelle Obama’s example: promote the creation of new programs such as Obama’s Let’s Move initiative, which included more physical activity and healthier school meals. Isn’t leadership not just calling out a problem, but finding a possible solution?

Finally, I would love to hear Governor Reynolds explain how withholding federal funds from kids who qualify for free or reduced-price school lunches will solve childhood obesity. Not all children are lucky enough to have regular meals provided by parents or guardians. Not all children are lucky enough to be called “pleasantly plump.”

Top photo of Governor Kim Reynolds at the Iowa Hunger Summit in September 2023 originally published on the governor’s official Facebook page.

About the Author(s)

Bernie Scolaro

  • how many examples do we need

    before folks catch on that our rulers haven’t really thought these matters through, aren’t concerned about making sense to us or contradicting themselves, and are generally detached from how most matters of economy, psychology, health, etc actually work? Is there just some inherent pleasure in making these kinds of case over and again or do folks see something productive coming from it that I’ve missed, like does this kind of preaching to the choir prove effective at rallying the base or_____?

  • Thank you, Bernie Scolaro

    I’m interested in personal-experience and personal-opinion essays as well as political analyses, and I’m grateful that this blog features both. Thank you for that, Laura Belin.