Junkfood Science: A University education

September 13, 2007

A University education

University of Iowa administrators have decided to eliminate a piece of Americana and teach prejudice against fat students.

To appear to be fighting obesity and give a message against gluttony, school officials have canceled the annual corn-on-the-cob eating competition. This may not sound like a big deal, but it is in the heart of corn country. And it is to those students surrounded by the untrue educational position that their naturally fat bodies are unhealthy and the fault of gluttony.

This story marks the loss of another bit of American tradition and the relaxed idea that food can be fun. Corn eating contests may not be for everyone but they — or eating too much of anything — do not cause obesity and the natural diversity in our shapes and sizes. Some readers may remember the corn eating contest episode of the Real McCoy’s that first aired on June 19, 1958! In this episode, Grandpa Amos McCoy, played by Walter Brennan (1894-1974), wagered the family’s prize-laying hen that Little Luke will win the corn eating contest.

This popular show ran from 1957 to 1963, with 224 episodes — well before the obesity “crisis.” The difference between then and now isn’t the meat and potatoes and desserts eaten by the characters and viewers, but the lack of obsession with eating “healthy” and hysteria about obesity.

As the Iowa City Press-Citizen reports, it’s the “age of obesity”:

Aww shucks: UI bans corn-eating contest

...A corn-on-the-cob competition that was part of the annual “Beat State Week" — a series of activities leading up to the rivalry game against Iowa State University — was canceled because school officials say it encourages gluttony. “With the initiatives we have in terms of promoting health living, at least symbolically, we should not promote activities that would seem to encourage gluttony, particularly with the widespread problem of obesity today," said Phillip Jones, vice president for student service....

Other similar activities this year have been warded off by the new position. Jones said such events that promote overeating contrast the “educational position" the university has taken. UI promotes several weight conscious initiatives, such as Lighten Up Iowa, adult weight management and Weight Watchers at UI.

Corn-on-the-cob has gone the way of birthday party cupcakes, those giant saucer cookies and real chocolate milk in the school cafeteria, Halloween trick-or-treat candy, and so many other childhood fun foods. Young people will have to rent DVDs to learn what it used to be like to grow up without having to worry about every morsel they eat and spend each day preoccupied with every ounce on the scale.

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