It is perfectly logical to follow up the previous chapter with this one. After reading about childhood obesity, we fully understand the source of the problem. This problem is not exclusive to academic institutions, but it goes way beyond the school environment. We find vending machines everywhere, in every corner of commercial buildings, shopping malls, water parks etc. I can go on and on about where they are located, but this is not the point of this chapter. The point is that their content will provide you with a one-way ticket to obesity and hell. Every day, temptation drives us to put money in these machines, to receive in return a high fat, high cholesterol and high sugar snack. When does it stop? Never. These machines even offer quick microwave meals, and let me tell you, they are no bargain in terms of their cost on your health.
As mentioned in a previous chapter, those who use illegal drugs finance terrorism, and we spend money to finance our own death.
Don’t think I am an angel here. I used to put money into these machines and I am as guilty as anyone. However, I knew when to say enough, is enough! Since the vending machine business generates millions of dollars yearly, everyone wants a piece of the action, including academic institutions.
We definitely can understand that the school principals are using the commissioned money from these machines to finance school activities and sports events. Computers are also being bought for education purposes. Yep! Education. Now what kind of education is that? Teaching our kids to eat unhealthy makes us educators? Let’s start at the source. All schools have sex education, right? Why not health education to help young kids eat healthily? By doing that, they will bring the knowledge home and start applying the concepts that they learned at school.
These killing machines surround academic institutions all around the country and indeed the world. We find all different types of snacks, mostly unhealthy ones that benefit the vending operators and the snack industry. I am not talking about gumball machines here. I am talking about the ones that have high fat cookies, meals on the go, chips, chocolates, candies etc… You all know what I mean. However, despite knowing this fact, you do not hesitate in putting your hard-earned money into these machines and collecting your one-way ticket to bad health.
I am not the only person to see vending machines as a serious problem:
Leaving healthy eating habits at home, a student downed a 20-ounce Mountain Dew and wolfed a bag of cheddar fries during a 9 a.m. study hall – fare nutritionists say is far too common in schools. “During study halls and stuff, people just eat from the vending machines, and I don’t see any healthy stuff in there,” said the student, a high school senior.
That is precisely the problem, say a growing number of experts critical of the poor eating habits they believe schools increasingly are encouraging. Sodas and junk food sold from vending machines, a drop in P.E classes requirements, and young people adopting sedentary lifestyles mean that the schools entrusted to enrich young people’s minds also could be enriching their waistlines, to the detriment of children’s health, critics say. That chorus has grown especially loud, culminating when a group representing school nutrition directors called for the federal government to begin regulating what is sold in school vending machines, targeting sugary sodas and salty snacks for possible elimination.
“Let’s just keep those items out of the school until the end of the school day, until 2:30 or 3 o’clock, whenever the day ends,” said Marilyn Hurt, nutrition supervisor for the La Crosse School District in Wisconsin, who addressed US senators as president of the American School Food Service Association.
“We need to let kids know that these are foods that you consume occasionally. But you don’t drink a 20-ounce pop for breakfast.”
For some students, one large soft drink isn’t enough. During his study hall, he actually purchased two, 20-ounce Mountain Dews – one for immediate consumption and the other to save for lunch, when the vending machines are off-limits.
Mary E. Kelly, administrator of the division of school nutrition services at Milwaukee, Wis., Public Schools, said that schools too often send a message contrary to one of good nutrition by allowing junk food to be sold from vending machines, as well as using candy and soda for fundraisers.
In addition, vending machines can interfere with school cafeterias’ attempts to serve balanced meals to students, she said.
School leaders, however, counter they’re not at fault for the dietary habits of their kids. Moreover, they say, as long as students are going to be eating that way, schools might as well see a profit from it.
Deals with Coca-Cola or Pepsi, as well as standard vending machine contracts, have kept schools in scoreboards and scholarships during tight fiscal times. At the same time, physical education courses have been sacrificed so students can meet more rigorous academic demands expected by both parents and politicians.
Some students opt for bagels and salads over the vending machines or pizza, burgers and cookies sold by the food service. But others say the vending machines get heavy uses much of the day in the building, which serves juniors and seniors.
“If they didn’t sell the junk food,” high school senior Art Schultz said, “I don’t think they’d sell much of anything.”
After reading this article, I was actually amazed by the attitude of some of the students, especially Art Schultz, who claims that if junk food didn’t sell, nothing would sell. Excuse me! I would like to meet this student, and find out how unhealthy he is. With all healthy snacks alternative available in today’s market, it is possible to eat snacks without compromising your health. There are companies that offer only healthy food in vending machines. One company comes to mind. “Snappy Snacks Gourmet Food” based in the nation’s capital, Washington D.C (www.snappysnacks.com) offers solely healthy snacks in vending machines that will revolutionize the industry by offering choices to consumers. I find it brilliant. If you have the option between eating healthy snacks versus those that will eventually clog your arteries, I guess the obvious choice comes to mind.
So where do the vending snacks problems starts? Kids spend most of their day in school. Public health initiatives direct more of their education strategies toward these establishments. How can we engage the mass student population in eating healthy? Some other article mentions clearly how to approach such a challenge.
“Schools are identified as a key setting for public health strategies to prevent and decrease the prevalence of overweight and obesity. Most children spend a large portion of time in school. Schools provide many opportunities to engage children in healthy eating and physical activity and to reinforce healthy diet and physical activity messages. Public health approaches in schools should extend beyond health and physical education to include school policy, the school physical and social environment, and links between schools and families and communities. Schools and communities that are interested in reducing overweight among the young people they serve can consider the options listed below. Decisions as to which options to select should be made at the local level.
1. Build awareness among teachers, food-service staff, coaches, nurses, and other school staff about the contribution of proper nutrition and physical activity to maintaining a lifelong healthy weight.
2. Educate teachers, staff, and parents about the importance of physical activity at school as well as nutrition programs and policies.
3. Educate parents, teachers, coaches, staff, and other adults in the community about their importance as role models for children, and teach them how to be models for healthy eating and regular physical activity.
4. Educate students, teachers, staff, and parents about the importance of body size acceptance and the dangers of unhealthy weight control practices.
5. Develop sensitivity of staff to the problems encountered by overweight children.
1. Provide age-appropriate and culturally sensitive instruction in health education that helps students develop the knowledge, attitudes, skills, and behaviors to adopt, maintain, and enjoy healthy eating habits and a physically active lifestyle.
2. Ensure that meals offered through the school breakfast and lunch programs meet nutrition standards.
3. Adopt policies ensuring that all foods and beverages available on school campuses and at school events contribute toward eating patterns that are consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
4. Provide food options that are low in fat, calories, and added sugars, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat or nonfat dairy foods.
5. Ensure that healthy snacks and foods are provided in vending machines, school stores, and other venues within the school’s control.
6. Prohibit student access to vending machines, school stores, and other venues that compete with healthy school meals in elementary schools and restrict access in middle, junior, and high schools.
7. Provide an adequate amount of time for students to eat school meals, and schedule lunch periods at reasonable hours around midday.
8. Provide all children, from pre-kindergarten through grade 12, with quality physical education that helps develop the knowledge, attitudes, skills, behaviors, and confidence needed to be physically active for life.
9. Provide daily recess periods for elementary school students, featuring time for unstructured but supervised play.
10. Provide extracurricular physical activity programs, especially inclusive intramural programs and physical activity clubs.
11. Encourage the use of school facilities for physical activity programs offered by the school and/or community-based organizations outside of school hours.
Research and Evaluation
1. Conduct research on the relationship between healthy eating and physical activity to student health, learning, attendance, classroom behavior, violence, and other social outcomes.
2. Evaluate school-based behavioral health interventions for the prevention of children being overweight.
3. Develop an ongoing, systematic process to assess the school physical activity and nutrition environment, and plan, implement, and monitor improvements.
4. Conduct research to study the effect of school policies such as food services and physical activity curricula on overweight in children and adolescents.
5. Evaluate the financial and health impact of school contracts with vendors of high-calorie foods and beverages with minimal nutritional value.
The explosion of vending machines in public schools is a relatively new phenomenon. As recently as a decade ago, such machines were uncommon on campus. However, as principals and PTAs began to recognize the potential payoff of vending revenue during a time of increasingly tight school budgets, the number grew quickly.
High schools in the District receive $4,000 to $30,000 a year under a contract negotiated by the central office, while Fairfax (Virginia) schools take in $20,000 to $30,000 a year under a similar setup, officials said. The numbers are higher in Prince George’s and Montgomery (Maryland), where schools are allowed to negotiate contracts.
“This money is crucial,” said William H. Ryan, principal at High Point High School in Prince George’s, that allows school-by-school contracts. Last year, High Point took in more than $98,000 in vending revenue, about a quarter of the school-based operating budget. “There are things that I do with that money around the school for students that I could not do,” Ryan said.
“The school system is failing our children in promoting unhealthy eating habits,” Sandberg-Bernard said. “I am fundamentally opposed to the principles on which our school accepted the deal with Pepsi.”
“It’s not just that there are vending machines, but they’re filled with the worst food there can be: candy and fried pork rinds,” Mike Tabor said. “I thought, ‘What’s going on here? Why not have granola bars?”
Some principals have tried to restrict what they consider the worst of the junk food. Janice Mills, principal at Laurel High in Prince George’s, has banned Pepsi from selling its highest-calorie beverage, Mountain Dew. She also has outlawed candy bars and licorice, though she allows granola snacks, chips and pretzels. Laurel’s $42,269 in vending profits last year ranked 11th among the county’s 20 high schools.
Fairfax’s answer is to let a nutritionist oversee the contracts to ensure that the machines are stocked with foods that meet federal nutrition standards.
“I would never sacrifice nutrition for the bottom line,” said Penny McConnell, Fairfax’s director of food and nutrition services. “We’re a federal nutrition program. Students get enough of this off campus, and they do have it available after school.”
For Montgomery Blair senior Katie Riley, such considerations are unimportant. Pressed for time to study for a calculus exam, she stopped by the machines one recent day for a Pepsi and a bag of chips – skipping the lunch her mother packed: yogurt, cookies and an apple.
“It’s fast and it’s filling,” she said with a smile. Although she sometimes worries that such a meal could make her fat, she shrugged: “Part of you thinks about going more healthy, but most kids just go more for what tastes good.”
This article sets out the subject perfectly using simple terminology understandable to everyone. Why reinvent the wheel? We all understand, after reading this article, how the problem can be resolved. We can help these schools by offering them the choice in opting solely for healthy snacks in vending machines. We can reject all contracts with other companies if they offer foods that have no nutritional value to the students. We can do many more things that will help eradicate the disease (obesity) that has been plaguing our country for so many years.