Friday June 6th: Have a Doughnut for Freedom

Do you know what today is? If you said D-Day, you’d be right. But this year, June 6 also marks another, less well known occasion.

National Doughnut Day, celebrated the first Friday each June, may seem like a silly excuse to indulge, but it has serious roots in American history. The holiday was created in 1938 by the Salvation Army to honor those who distributed doughnuts to soldiers on the front lines during World War I. At the time, the doughnut was a novelty to most Americans, but it quickly became a breakfast staple. So when did this beloved ring of fried dough become public enemy number one?

Today, we’ve got a full-time “food police”—an array of bureaucrats, lawmakers, and public health advocates—going after doughnuts with taxes, laws, and brute force, all in the name of fighting obesity. The ultimate goal of these self-appointed guardians of our health is to get us to make choices they deem “nutritionally correct.” The humble doughnut in all its fried, fatty, and sugar-sweetened glory, is the perfect symbol for the war on food freedom. That’s why this year we are asking you to eat two doughnuts—one for those in today’s armed forces and another as a show of patriotic defiance.

It’s not just doughnuts. Government meddling in Americans’ nutritional choices continues to mount, at all levels of government—from the congressional restaurant menu labeling mandate in health care legislation to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) push for “voluntary” cuts in foods’ salt content to state “sin taxes” on politically disfavored food and drinks to the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity’s endorsement of sweeping changes in community planning on nutritional grounds. San Francisco has even banned the McDonald’s Happy Meal!

More recently, the food fight has focused in on soda and other sugary sweetened beverages. While many hoped that former New York City Mayor Bloomberg’s “big soda ban” proposal would fade away after he left office, his successor Bill De Blasio’s health department this week asked the state’s highest court to reinstate the rule. Also this week at a “National Soda Summit” in Washington, D.C., Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) reportedly announced plans to introduce a bill to impose a federal tax on soda.

Earlier this year, the FDA announced plans to ban the use of trans fat in packaged foods—never mind that over the past decade, food manufacturers have replaced trans fats in their foods—virtually eliminating them from the market—and that consumers voluntarily reduced their consumption, from an average 4.6 grams per day in 2003 to about 1 gram in 2012.  While there’s no scientific research on the health effects of trans fat consumption at these low levels, the FDA seems to believe that if forcibly eliminating it from the American diet saves even a few lives a year, it’s worth the cost.

These attempts to regulate nutrition are not only based on questionable science, they also reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of the proper role of government in a free society. Even if obesity was an epidemic, it can’t be solved through social engineering or “nudging” consumers into making the “right” diet choices through warning labels, taxes, and brunt force. The only way people will be healthy is if they consciously make healthy choices. And if they don’t make healthy choices? Well, it’s a free country—for now.

As my colleague Sam Kazman put it:

National Donut Day didn’t start off as a political event, but given the direction in which America’s ever-expanding ‘regulatory state’ is headed, perhaps it ought to become one. Whenever we eat, whether at home or while dining out, we find more and more politicians and bureaucrats with their fingers on our plates.

So today, June 6, we ask you to join us in raising a doughnut–or two–to celebrate both the men and women who defend America in actual battle as well as the freedoms they fight for, including the right to make our own choices.