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Junk Food in School

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The term "junk food" refers to the casual snack items many children and teens munch on between their major meals. What I find disturbing however, is that most snack items available to our youth are directly associated with the "evils" of our food industry and the rising levels of American obesity. The steady rise in number of obese individuals in America over the last few years especially is a trend that cannot be ignored; however, the "health crusade" that concerned parents have been fighting recently is not addressing the true root to this problem: the choices their children are making.

Removing the flashy and well advertised snack items from our schools only lightly medicates the problem that most children and teens share: they can make bad choices. Without the presence of potato chips or fruit snacks in a child's school only means that if they want such snack items, they must get them from other sources; it does not deter them from wanting the "junk food" it just presents an obstacle to them getting it.

The easiest way for a high school student to access unhealthy food apart from a vending machine at their school is driving to a different location during their lunch or an off period to buy these items. A large bag of chips may be purchased at a supermarket or there might be a multi-drink deal on energy drinks at a gas station. It's very common for teens to purchase this food in bulk in such situations, and as a result have an increased surplus of unhealthy food as a result. I am not arguing that selling junk food in schools is a better option than letting our youth purchase it in another location, what I am saying is that removing these items does not result in their extinction from our youth's lives. It's the personal choice to snack on these items that is the true issue.
Rather than rallying against the evils of snack items at schools, parents should be more invested in teaching their kids the importance of a healthy diet. Taking something away from someone does not teach them how to live without it; that is a change they must develop, and as is the case with most kids and teens, we often need help the development of our decision making processes. Parents should teach their kids healthy choices, and schools should give both parents and their kids the resources to do so. Health classes should have extensive nutrition units, cafeterias should offer nutritious choices, and at home, parents should continue these examples. A hamburger cooked at home can often have more calories than most of the food items a child will eat at school- junk food included.

In the end, simply taking away the junk food from our schools does not act as a progressive step in reducing the number of obese individuals in America, however, helping our youth understand how to make good choices regarding their health does. I believe that if these healthy choices can be established in kids and teens, then the absence of junk food will have a much greater effect in their daily school lives. Focusing on simply removing the junk food in our children's lives does nothing to address the problem if it is not backed by the inclusion of healthy living instruction that both school and parents have an obligation to offer the children and teens of our nation.





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MPH Student said...
Feb. 20, 2011 at 1:32 pm
As a Master of Public Health graduate student with an focus on adolescent health I am ancouraged to see such insight from a teen! 
 
#1Mom said...
Feb. 13, 2011 at 9:38 pm
Wow!  Well said!
 
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