Desert robes cover up well, but the scales don’t lie. America has been outdone in the obesity wars. According to a recent article in The Atlantic, half of adults and a third of children in Qatar are obese. The U.S. is languishing behind with an overall third of its population qualifying as obese. The tiny Persian Gulf oil nation has rolled the U.S. off its padded perch.
How did Qatar achieve this benchmark? Per capita, it’s the richest country on earth and is the world’s No. 1 exporter of natural gas. It’s a simple formula: 250,000 Qataris, each with enough cash to choke a dozen donkeys, don’t exercise much. Searing heat and armies of house servants tend to make people a bit work-shy. Probably won’t see many Home Depots or Lowe’s dotting Qatar’s horizon any time soon.
The Qatari government has gone through a litany of health awareness campaigns — without much success. Should the Qataris look to the U.S. for any guidance, they’ll be surprised to find America in a nutritional battle of its own.
USDA is in the midst of a potato war. American kids, armed with Wii and Xbox controllers, are piling on the pounds as never before and USDA is placing significant blame on school lunches. The school lunch program ($11 billion per year) may get an extra $6.8 billion added to its annual budget in a major overhaul — with the intention of making the lunches healthier and more nutritious.
A big target of the new-and-improved lunch program is the potato. A recent Harvard study on the potato related it to all sorts of health risks — with even boiled potatoes contributing to weight gain. Boiled potatoes? Boiled potatoes are basically prison food. In fact, if USDA limited the lunch program to boiled taters (Maybe reward well-behaved students with broccoli on the side), horrified American kids would start shedding pounds at an olympic rate. And no amount of ketchup could stem the tide.
According to the New York Times, 30 million U.S. children qualified for free or subsidized meals from the federal school lunch program last year — that’s right, 30 million. The Times also reported that a third of American children are obese or overweight. Seems fair to think the problem is miles beyond school lunches.
Sure, offering kids fresh produce at lunch is a good thing; it ought to be for $6.8 billion. Targeting potatoes (and pizza sauce) still doesn’t get the Wii controller out of little Johnny’s hand.
No word yet on what the Qatari food police will do next to combat their weight problem: Safe money says they won’t be going after taters and pizza sauce.