Kirsten Gillibrand has had it with McDonald’s.
"Have you been to McDonald's and looked up on that wall and seen what a Big Mac is?" Gillibrand said, laughing, as she spoke on a conference call with reporters this afternoon to announce a new proposal to counter childhood obesity. "Have you looked at that lately? If you had, you wouldn't be ordering a Big Mac. It's like your whole daily caloric intake is in a Big Mac. It's a lot of calories."
Gillibrand proposed investing $3.9 billion of federal funding to increase the federal reimbursement rates for schools so that they could spend 70 cents more a day on a more nutritious lunch.
"On a typical school lunch you might have chicken nuggets, a couple slices of bread, Doritos and some canned fruit cocktail," said Gillibrand. "That would be a typical lunch. Under this new plan you could actually have grilled chicken breast on a seven-grain roll, steamed broccoli and then a fruit cup of melons and strawberries and grapes, and some milk."
Gillibrand said that better school meals would prevent serious diseases like diabetes and save the government "hundreds of billions of dollars" in health care costs. She also said it would boost students’ math and reading scores and spare overweight children from abuse.
She proposed banning transfats in public schools within the next five years and said she'd be open to establishing a commission on junk food to determine the nutritional value of snacks, but said she was not yet willing to consider taxing candy.
Gillibrand said her proposals came about after she held obesity forums in Lake Placid and "from the evidence I have gained from meeting with obese kids, obese young adults and obese adults about things that would have made a difference in their lives and would have made a difference going forward."
There are a number of theories about the causes of the nation's obesity rates. I asked Gillibrand which one she subscribed to.
"Research shows that it's because our children are spending their time differently and eating different foods,” she said. “A lot of our children spend more time in front of the computer, more time playing computer hand held games, more time in front of the television than the generations before us. We also know that kids are eating a lot more processed foods now, so instead of breast of chicken we're having Chicken McNuggets. Do you remember when you were a kid, did you have Chicken McNuggets or did you have chicken breast? I had chicken breast as a kid. Chicken McNuggets are new."