Statesman Editorial: Thomson’s ‘Healthy Initiatives 2.0’ is a little too aggressive

When Boise City Councilman TJ Thomson and other stakeholders proposed new “Healthy Initiatives” standards for Boise child-care facilities last year, we endorsed the idea because existing standards needed improvement and there was a freedom to respond to good, healthy ideas.

We don’t yet feel the same way about some of Thomson’s “Healthy Boise Initiatives 2.0.” Though we share Thomson’s goal to reduce childhood obesity, we don’t agree with some tactics to reach these goals: banning new fast-food restaurants from locating withing 1,000 feet of high schools; restricting advertising near any school; offering more healthy food options at city venues and events; matching federal assistance for low-income families to buy fresh produce; and encouraging real estate development to promote healthy lifestyles.

Banning new fast-food restaurants close to schools prompts many questions: What is fast food? What is healthy? And will the kids subject to these mandates escape the obesity problem we want to avoid? Will kids just jump in cars and drive more than three football fields away to get their burger-fry-shake fix somewhere else?

Actually, there is a definition for fast-food businesses in one of Thomson’s white papers: “a restaurant where food and beverages are: (1) prepared in advance of customer orders or are able to be quickly prepared for consumption on or off the premises; (2) ordered and served over counters or at drive-thru windows; and (3) paid for before being consumed.”

What if the place is serving yogurt, seasonal fiddlehead ferns, tofu tapas and gluten-free nutritious salads — minus dressing and bacon and cheese and ... well, you know. Are we going to make exceptions? Where’s the line? Thomson can try as he might to limit advertising targeting teens, but he is up against the fact that kids wear advertising and carry on their persons those smartphones with displays.

We can see having limited success by offering “more healthy food options” — when healthy police decide what those are and before they change again — at city venues and events. We like the idea of incentives involving mobile farmers markets, and neighborhoods and schools that encourage more exercise and less indoor screen activities.

Thomson’s motivation is in the right place, but he needs to listen when people say “you can’t legislate diets,” “this seems draconian” or “this is an overreach.” There is a sweet spot between these proposals and the weight loss of the Subway guy, Jared. Let’s find it.

Statesman Editorials are the unsigned opinion expressing the consensus of the Statesman’s editorial board. To comment on an editorial or suggest a topic, email editorial@idahostatesman.com.