The Food Police Visit Illinois (Guest Blogger Joe Goodman)

My diet consists of three basic food groups: 1) meat, 2) cereal, and 3) cheesecake. There was a fourth, popcorn, but when movie theaters stopped using real butter, I quit eating it. A man has to have principles.

Cheesecake will never be dropped because my wife makes the best one this side of heaven. I am not sure where she acquired this skill and frankly I don’t care. I am content with drooling in anticipation of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake with an Oreo Cookie crust every year around the holidays. One slice is rumored to have 1200 calories. Personally, I think that estimate is off by a factor of ten. Something that good has to contain 12,000.

My high school age son delights in his Mother’s cheesecake as well. He is an offensive lineman for Normal Community High School. Big fellow, him. He eats enough for an eighth grade team by himself and wanted to share his mother’s talent with his teammates, who eat as much as he does. So, on his first ever Varsity Football Thursday Evening Dinner, Mom made 80 (yes, you read that correctly) individual Reese’s peanut butter cheesecakes. The house smelled like I always imagined Paradise to smell. I was only enraptured until I got to lick the spoon and scrape out the bowl, then I experienced true Nirvana. The ways to Enlightenment are many.

My soul is troubled this morning, though, and not because I ate the 33 leftover cheesecakes. In route to the dinner, I was informed of a new Illinois law. Here are the particulars:

Unit 5 informed us that we are no longer allowed to provide any homemade food for our players. In the past, we have always made the PB&J meals for the teams to have before their away games, and had the bread generously donated by Great Harvest Bread Company. Since this is no longer an option, we will provide store-bought “Uncrustables” for the varsity, along with the water, granola bar, and banana. Since the cost for this has suddenly increased, we will only be providing the water, granola bar, and banana to the freshman team before their away games, as they leave the school early-mid afternoon, and finish their game and get their La Gondola Meal around dinner time. In addition, we can no longer provide homemade desserts at the varsity Thursday night meals. We will provide dessert, but have to purchase it with our funds. If you had signed up to provide a dessert, thank you! And anyone who would like to donate additional money is certainly welcome to do so!

My first reaction was, “How long will it take me to eat 80 individual cheesecakes?” That is, until I saw how distraught my wife was. She had invested six hours in her son’s well-being and was not about to just let this go. This was a big deal. We arrived, and together my wife and I walked into the school cafeteria carrying 80 individually prepared cheesecakes. Another mother looked at me and announced, “You can’t hand those out.” I replied, “Watch me.”

Our rebelliousness was contagious. Another father chimed in, “Yeah what are they going to do, arrest us?” The Booster Club President, presumably the rule enforcer in this case, was silent as I informed him that we were about to openly violate the State of Illinois. He may have known the rule, but he wasn’t about to stand between a room full of football players and those now-visible cheesecakes. The parents distributed them to the boys, who pounced on them like alligators eating marshmallows.

Sports are a great way to teach young people how to obey rules and become responsible members of society. I hope that from this small act of civil disobedience, these young men also learned that sometimes challenging authority is appropriate too. The cheesecakes were illegally distributed; we flouted the law, but with good reason.

The Legislature’s logic, if you can call it that, is that packaging contains nutritional information. Never mind that I can bring packaged food known to cause instant cardiac arrest in yak. Or that not a single parent or football player will ever read the label. By golly, I know what’s in it.

Other than the law itself, something much more sinister is at work here. It is the idea that citizens are incapable of managing their own affairs, right down to the most basic choices about what they and their friends eat at school events. Was all this really necessary? Can anyone out there think of something better for politicians to do? One at a time, please.

Maybe I will have my Jack Nicholson moment. If questioned by the Illinois Attorney General, I will respond, “You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth…You’re darn right! I GAVE THE ORDER TO PASS OUT CHEESECAKES!” Then, it’s letters from prison for me. I already have drafts of my first three. I wonder if they serve cheesecake…


Joe Goodman is a colleague of Terry’s who vents about an out-of-control government regularly. Terry is glad he wrote this one down.

About Terry Noel

I am an Associate Professor of Management and Quantitative Methods at Illinois State University. My specialty is entrepreneurship.
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2 Responses to The Food Police Visit Illinois (Guest Blogger Joe Goodman)

  1. Patti says:

    This is great! I hope more parents have the moxy to stand up against legislative ridiculousness! Go cheesecake! Go cheesecake!!


  2. Rick says:

    With all due respect to my colleagues, both of whom I admire a great deal, I’m with the state on this one. I am no fan of the nanny state, but let’s think this one through–the reasoning behind the law is more than just so parents can “read nutritional data” (although I can see the logic behind that); the law is designed to protect kids. The FDA estimates that 48 million Americans suffered each year from food-borne illnesses–and 3000 die. Even if those estimates are high (and the FDA lowered them from higher estimates of 76 million and 5000 deaths), those are still sobering numbers. There is a reason we license and inspect food-production facilities–the state has an interest in protecting the health of citizens. While the market would eventually correct for firms that violate common-sense safety procedures (e.g., those firms would be forced out of business), how many illnesses and deaths would occur before that happened? In the case of public safety and well-being, the vast majority of us accept the role of the state in ensuring that firms abide by reasonable and prudent standards of safety and health.

    The same argument applies to homemade foods brought to a classroom. Can the teacher–or parent–really affirm that the food is safe? That Dad didn’t thoughtlessly help Mom ice (or is it “frost?”) the cupcakes right after he ate a handful of peanuts? Or that little brother didn’t stick a finger in the frosting right after he used the bathroom without washing his hands? Or that the potato salad I just brought to the school potluck didn’t sit out in the car just a bit too long?

    I know that we have managed to survive for generations with potlucks, homemade treats for school children, and so forth. And maybe this is all a grand conspiracy by Hostess to get us to buy more food. And, I have no doubt that schools are aggressively enforcing this because it takes them off the hook for any liability for tainted food products in school (“Hey, those cupcakes were Hostess, not Mrs. Jones’. Not our fault your little Billy is sick.”). Maybe it goes too far–but I really do see the logic behind this.


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