President Obama has come in for a lot of heat lately for being photographed eating junk food. He is not the only one, of course. Others in his entourage — the vice president, the first family, and members of cabinet — have all chowed down on fast food while cameras focused on them.
Grub Street Los Angeles posted a slideshow of the President’s culinary pleasures. And now the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has launched a petition asking those associated with the White House to stop eating junk food in public.
When the first report appeared, I read it with curiosity but little attention. Then I thought of my own years of working within health systems, trying to encourage a shift in thinking about food. One of the hardest parts was having to walk the talk, every day, everywhere.
I knew too many people in the small communities I served to be seen grabbing fries and soda pop at a fast-food eatery. One photograph of my dipping onion rings in ketchup would have undermined every effort I had made to raise awareness about the importance of eating the best possible food from a sustainable food system. And I was just a lowly community development worker.
The memory made me re-think my blasé response to the junk food photo ops. I should not have dismissed the criticisms as nattering. When top governmental officials are photographed eating junk food, they are undermining their own messages.
What Junk Food Photo Ops Say
As President of the United States, Barack Obama has no choice but to be a role model. Every move he makes sends messages. When he eats fast food as the cameras roll, he is saying something untenable.
Fast food photo ops lend the weight of the presidency to a lot of things I suspect he does not really support. Here are three of them:
Photo from cohdra via morgueFile; photos 2 and 3: Thinkstock
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