Monday, April 02, 2007

Obesity Stamps

Last night I took my wife out for dinner to celebrate her birthday at the Chart House restaurant which is located on nearby Lake Kingsley in Lakeville, Minnesota ( Despite the rainy weather we had a nice view of the lake - a return trip this summer is planned so we can enjoy dining on the outside deck - and overall we both really enjoyed our meals. The one element that definitely harmed Chart House in my restaurant rankings is that it took nearly 30 minutes for them to deliver our starter salads. Now a thirty minute wait can never justified especially since it was a small crowd on a Sunday evening but I must say the high quality of my "strawberry chicken spinach bacon salad" helped pacify my anxiety about the long wait but not entirely.

My main course was a bone-in pork chop with a tequila lime sauce which was indeed a nice choice. My wife's chicken stir fry was also very good but the highlight of the evening was the chocolate birthday cake with ice cream that our waiter brought to top off the meal. Delicious!! Again, the kitchen delivery time was too slow but the quality of the food justified a return trip this summer so for now I will award them a "2.75" on my 5 point restaurant review scale.

So I guess I had food on my mind tonight as I reviewed our local newspapers from last week which noted in one article that the Minneapolis, Minnesota Parks and Recreation department announced a tentative plan to build fitness centers throughout the city's parks in an effort to combat obesity. State Representative Karen Clark of Minneapolis introduced a bill (what an appropriate name for a "piece of legislation" -- a "bill" for taxpayers) that seeks an appropriation of US$900,000 to build one of these facilities in the Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis as a service (apparently free) to the city's poorer residents since, "Our kids cannot afford a membership to......a private health club; that not in our demographic, " states Parks Superintendent Jon Gurban.

Now before the state legislature uses our tax money to enable a government entity (parks department) to compete with the private sector (health clubs) let me offer some fiscally prudent, common sense alternatives:

  • Minneapolis Parks should create a sports league of cross country (running) teams that would allow the various neighborhoods' children to compete with each other -- learning to work as a team member on would be far better socialization for these children versus a free health club in the middle of a city park.
  • The article I read ( -- "Park Officials Want to Raise Minneapolis' Sweat Factor") noted that non-profit YMCAs in the Minneapolis charge families $98 PER MONTH. Now since our state legislators currently receive $96.00 PER DIEM/DAY for their "service" in the legislature let's call on concerned members like Rep. Clark to donate her per diem expenses to underprivileged families in her Minneapolis district. Assuming Rep. Clark claims 100 days of per diem service this year that totals $9,600 and given that a one year YMCA family membership costs $1,176 Rep. Clark's per diem would provide health club memberships for eight (8) deserving families!!! This could be a great pilot project to see if these eight families lose weight, recruit their neighbors to join the YMCA, and set aside their own personal funds to pay for year two of their family membership because they found value in the first year membership provided by Rep. Clark's donated per diem payments. (still coming from us taxpayers of course). If we take this per diem idea to its maximum potential since we have 201 state legislators in Minnesota they could collectively provide 1,608 family memberships each year to local YMCAs.
  • While I treasure personal freedom I really hate the idea of government taking our money to build "wellness infrastructure" in the form of health clubs in city parks so why don't we simply have the Minneapolis School District require (I know -- this restricts personal freedom) every student to join a sports team regardless of athletic ability or interest -- now that would help combat obesity while teaching students the value of competition. If tax money is going to be spent let us spend $900,000 on sports equipment and uniforms for the the large influx of student-athletes NOT on fitness centers in the city parks.

Granted people like Superintendent Gurban and Rep. Clark might be convinced they have a great, low cost plan (estimates are US$1 million per health club) for defeating obesity but have they thought this out thoroughly? One million dollars might be the initial cost but how will operating costs and replacement equipment costs due to theft, vandalism, and damage be covered? How much will it cost to train staff to manage these facilities? Have the potential costs related to personal injury/liability lawsuits been factored in to the park department's budget? Will these park health clubs be adequately staffed in terms of security so they simply don't evolve into venues for drug dealing and gang violence historically prevalent in neighborhoods like Phillips? Is this park health club idea the forerunner to an "Obesity Stamps" program partially CAUSED by our current "Food Stamps" program? --- Phillips Neighborhood

Clearly our state government budget is suffering from obesity if ideas like this one are being considered.


1 comment:

kissmysass said...

Or how about filtering that money back into the schools not for required sports teams, but for required gym class, aka Phys. education, which were, back in my day, required until the 10th or 11th grade of high school...if you check your local school curriculums and I believe-nationwide-they are now not required past a certain age. Simply astounding! The kids are always inside nowadays too, playing Playstation and Sega games or at the mall, doing nothing important. When I was young we were outside until it got dark out, biking, walking, skating, sledding--you name it. Kids do not get out and get enough exercise these days! That would certainly help in the obesity crises. So would parents buying less junk, sending more lunches from home to school, and staying in to cook dinner with the fam.