Deep Fryers Are About Freedom, Says Texas Agriculture Commissioner

by Laurie Ulster
Originally Published: 

When his opponents quote rising obesity rates and the obvious benefits of keeping kids healthy, Commissioner Sid Miller says that they’re missing the point. He wrote a letter to the editor of the Houston Chronicle last week, calling for the ban on deep-fat fryers and soda machines that’s been in place for 10 years to be repealed. He doesn’t think that the issue has anything to do with nutrition or children’s health; instead, it’s about the rights of the local districts to determine their own rules.

His stance on overturning the ban was the main focus of his campaign last year, during which he used the word “treasonous” to describe the Meatless Mondays policy in Texas public schools, and convinced notorious hunting advocate Ted Nugent to be his treasurer. He still insists that his position has nothing to do with food, and everything to do with freedom.

“I will always support decision-making at the local level,” he wrote. “I believe each school district—not the state or federal government—should decide what foods are offered to students. It’s about giving back local control and allowing each school district to make the best decision for their community.” He points out that this won’t force any school districts to start frying up those delicious, crispy potatoes if they don’t want to. He just wants them to have the choice.

In my quest to understand his point of view, I headed straight to my usual source of information: scripted television.

On Parenthood, Kristina Braverman fought to have the vending machines returned to her son Max’s school. I wasn’t sure how she was going to justify the request to all the PTA members who’d worked to have it removed, until she pointed out that if the food wasn’t there, the kids were going to go somewhere else to get it, and the local candy stores would be making money instead of the school. I’m guessing Sid Miller doesn’t watch Parenthood, because that would have made for a more compelling argument.

Miller says he wants school districts to make the best decision for their community, but you could easily argue that he’s actually setting it up so they can make bad ones. The Partnership for a Healthy Texas, an coalition of over 50 obesity-preventing organizations, responded with “Schools are one of the key environments where our state can work to defeat child obesity. Fit, nourished children perform better, miss less school, have fewer behavioral challenges, and are more likely to grow up to be healthy, working adults.”

And there’s the condundrum. Which is more important, the ability to make nutrition decisions on a local level, or the students’ health? What happens when districts start weighing (heh) the benefits of extra income for the food kids really want vs. what’s best for their bodies and minds? Is this really what fighting for our freedom is all about, the right to make french fries in school? A decision will be made within the next few months, and then maybe he can move on to other fryables, like Twinkies.

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