It's lunch time at a local high school. A 14-year-old female student is eagerly anticipating her lunch. She approaches the snack machine and purchases a chocolate cupcake and a soda. After eating these she decides she is still hungry. Returning to the machines she drops in another 75 cents and buys a bag of potato chips. Is this an isolated situation? No. Sadly it is a very common occurrence.
Why did she eat the junk food instead of purchasing a lunch from the cafeteria? Because it was there! We have an innate sweet and fat tooth and when the opportunity is available, we tend to drift toward these types of foods.
We teach children about nutrition in their classes yet we place junk food at their fingertips. Isn't this being hypocritical? We need to ban these machine from our schools! But the banning needs to start sooner than high school. We need to start in the elementary grades. Good eating habits need to begin early in life. By the time a student reaches high school the bad habits have already begun. Now, banning junk food machines will not stop parents from packing the forbidden food in their lunches, but if we teach the children early, showing that good eating habits are for the better, this may have the children teaching their families.
Soda pop is an interesting addictive substance. Not only does it contain caffeine and up to 10 teaspoons of sugar per can, but it contains phosphoric acid which cuts the sweetness. It also binds calcium, magnesium and zinc in the intestines and removes them from the body. This may temporarily increases the metabolic rate, making one feel better for a while.
Diet soda is little if any better. The other chemicals are still in the drink and the sweetness can mislead the body into thinking it has consumed a sugar-laden beverage. So, diet soda also perpetuates the sweet craving, which may be linked to old emotional responses or trauma. Unfortunately, drinking soda won't make you slim, beautiful, or popular – even drinking gallons a day. (http://www.drlwilson.com/articles/food habits-addiction.htm)
It is a sad fact that the school's main worry is for revenue, not for the health of the children. Replacing these types of snacks would create harmony on both sides. The children would have the snacks and the school would not lose money. Children don't necessarily want junk food, just food. An apple could be just as satisfying as a candy bar, especially if the candy bar was not available.
While working as a clerk in a local high school I witnessed a large amount of behavior and health problems in children who had poor eating habits. Many either ate no breakfast or a breakfast of soda and a donut (that they purchased at the school). Yes, they said they felt full of energy, but when I saw them later they were either dragging or did not feel well. Sugar consumption causes the “afternoon drop”. The drop in energy occurs when the sugar level in the blood diminishes, and this in turn causes many physical as well as emotional difficulties. The child tens to be cranky, sleepy, and at times very moody. Behavior problems have been linked to the ingesting of junk (fast) foods, and sodas. (Garfat, 2005).
Something has to be done and done fast.
Is it the school’s responsibility to teach good eating habits? Or the family’s? Sadly many times the families just do not eat well. So it seems that often the responsibility is in the hands of the educators.
Do we really have a choice? We need to ban those machines from our schools.
Garfat, T. (2005) Personal communication.