Poll: Should States Ban Junk Food at Schools?


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
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Earlier this year, Coach Tanya blogged about the changes being made to school lunches, but five years ago, the state of California had already started to cut down on junk food in school cafeterias. With the changes that were made in California high schools, there have been some interesting findings that may help reduce childhood obesity. The law in California put limits on the amount of fat, sugar and calories that are found in their cafeteria’s, along with the foods and snacks that are available on school grounds, such as vending machines.
According to a recent study, the ban on junk food in California high schools has been found to help the students consume fewer calories (approximately 160) each day compared to students in other states. While 160 fewer calories may not seem like much, cutting back just that small amount each day can still help teens avoid long-term weight gain, along with reversing the rapidly rising obesity rates. Even with this study, it seems that schools still have a long way to go in regards to offering complete nutritious meals and snacks. However, California seems to be starting a healthier trend for students while at school. While the students may not be eating all healthy foods at school (or at home), there is now more emphasis on providing healthier options for students by setting some nutritional requirements on the food that is avaliable to them.

Dr. Taber, an author of the study does mention that he recognizes that the "school-based laws have a limited scope because students only consume about 25 percent of their calories at school" and that "no one sector or environment is going to be the magical cure." Knowing that students consume 75 percent of their calories outside of school, perhaps this will be just one piece of the puzzle to help slow the rising childhood obesity trend.

Do you think banning junk food from schools will help with reducing childhood obesity?

Should states ban junk food at schools?

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  • 24
    Yes. And food stamps should not be used to buy junk food and soda either. - 5/10/2012   4:09:08 PM
  • 23
    My general answer is no. Banning is a knee-jerk response and just creates lists of "you're not allowed to have". It also rubs me very badly in the wrong way because it is one group of people deciding what EVERY persons' options are. Why should MY kids have to eat what Picky-Health-Food-Fanatic considers acceptable for his/her kids?

    1) If someone is a concerned parent, there is a very easy option. Pack the kid's lunches at home from the foods and ingredients the parent approves. No more worries about what those kids are eating at lunch.

    2) Be VERY wary of banning / removing junk food and replacing it with typical "healthy" school lunches. Making bad food = delicious stuff adults take away and good food = yucky stuff adults make you eat does NOT encourage healthy eating habits. It encourages those with lunch money to skip lunch and go to the convenience store on the way home. - 5/10/2012   2:56:18 PM
  • 22
    I agree that the responsibility for making sure children have education and access to healthy food lies primarily with parents. I also believe that a community needs to work together to help our future generations to become the best and healthiest people they can be. I'm a single mother whose time and attention must be divided. I send my son to school with a homemade healthy lunch, but I appreciate knowing that if I need to have him buy a lunch at school, the food will be healthy.

    I also think we need to choose our battles, and the battle to provide nutritious food to our children (and our neighbor's children if their parents can't or won't) is one worth fighting. - 5/10/2012   2:12:02 PM
  • 21
    If you care at all for all children you wood care you want them to live long and be healthy.Be smarter .Learn more .Some one has to save this self centered generation.We have to look after the coming generations not our self's. - 5/10/2012   2:06:08 PM
  • 20
    I don't have children in school, but soon my grandchildren will be there, and feel they need to serve healthy food to the children. I do agree, that parents need to control what they are eating the rest of the time they're NOT in school. So many don't encourage their children to play games, ride bikes, hike, etc.
    My beef, which may not seem related to obese children, is a huge concern of myself and my two sisters that our mother is in a nursing home. Every day, twice a day at snack time, they come around with the cart-what's on it? chips, cookies, soda...very little health in that, I'd say! But they are always "allowed" to have fruit, but it's not offered! it's out in the dining room, and they can have it if they ask for it specifically, at any time of any day. Problem is, my mother had a stroke which left her unable to verbalize, and sometimes her skills don't let her think of things if it's "out of sight, out of mind". So what do we do then? She becomes heavier and heavier each passing year, and with a broken hip at one point, she now has no mobility and continues to get heavier, already exceeding 300 lbs I'm sure. It makes me sad that our children and elderly are forced to live these kinds of lives. It's not THEIR choice! - 5/10/2012   1:44:09 PM
    I agree with Jibbie49 as so much focus is put on what schools are feeding our children without really addressing the fact that parents need to be the ones that are providing good, healthy meals for their children! Honestly it is NOT the schools fault if a child is obese...what are the children eating when they are not at school and what are they doing with their free time? We each need to be responsible and work to make changes in our own families lives to have the greatest impact at fighting the challenges of obesity. - 5/10/2012   1:35:47 PM
  • 18
    Yes, I do think vending machines that sell junk food and high-calorie, nutrition-empty school lunches should be banned from schools. I was in high school when they started putting vending machines for pop in school as a fund raiser. I thought it was crazy then, and now that we can see the results, it seems even crazier.

    It is possible to put more nutritious items in the machines if schools still want them. This is probably even a good idea because it could help kids maintain a better blood sugar. Cafeterias should definitely be serving nutritious meals. That's part of educating our children. Introducing units on nutrition into the class room curriculum at early ages is also an important part of this education process--as is having posters that promote good nutrition in the lunch rooms or hallways at school. (Probably widening this to more general good health practices). - 5/10/2012   1:19:06 PM
  • 17
    The problem is processed foods are readily available at low cost, but the schools need to provide those opportunities for children to learn about and experience healthy choices. This includes, food, academics, and socially. - 5/10/2012   1:04:02 PM
  • 16
    I do believe that schools should encourage healthy eating and more outdoor/non-video activities for children. Let the parents decide on when and what junk food their children can eat after school. America's obesity problems would decline if this approach was followed because we would be leaving the responsibility of poor food choices up to the parents/guardians where it belongs. - 5/10/2012   1:03:40 PM
  • 15
    I think rollstar nailed it as well. We really need to look at the funding issue as well. I for one would be willing to pay more school fees/taxes/ whatever to ensure my children had nutritious meals. We typically pack our children's lunch, and they consider it a treat to buy lunch at school. However, our school actually had "soft pretzel bites w/ cheese cup" as an entree once! - 5/10/2012   12:27:32 PM
  • 14
    We didn't have the food pyramid when I was in elementary school. Instead, we learned about the four basic food groups, and we played outside and were required to participate in P.E. classes too. And there were less choices at fast food places then. Thankfully, my parents provided healthy food with the occasional treat (yes, I'm talking about Hostess treats and homemade cookies). - 5/10/2012   12:16:53 PM
  • 13
    Rollstar nailed it. There is only so much government intervention can do. The main responsibility belongs to parents to provide nutritious food that tastes good and exercise (play) with their kids. The foundation for a healthy lifestyle starts at home when kids are young. - 5/10/2012   12:10:21 PM
  • 12
    I teach at a school in Texas and our government has been bombarding us with food restrictions and whatnot.... it doesn't help, really. If schools were given the money to provide fresh, GOOD healthy food, it might work. But with what resources the schools have, I think their version of healthy food turns kids off.

    Also... unless the schools ban junk food from being brought to campus at all, things won't change. We have some parents who show up EVERY DAY with a happy meal from McD's for their kid, so many who bring McD's or donuts for breakfast, and lunch boxes packed with lunchables and candy. I have seen kindergarteners walking to lunch with whole, full size bags of chips. Just because the school provides healthy options doesn't mean that the kids will eat it. Our kids don't eat much at school and then I see them at Sonic on my way home.

    Our kids are required to have 135 minutes, I think, of "PE" time... but the kids who are already overweight and obese can't do all the activities... so they sit out or whine to the coach that they don't feel good, or just stand there. Just lowering calorie intake isn't going to help these already obese kids. And I'm talking K-2 here. I can think of 4 morbidly obese students just off the top of my head, all under 8 years old. They need a health intervention and a specialized program involving the parents.

    Every little bit helps, I suppose, but without parent education and commitment, it won't really change. - 5/10/2012   11:48:56 AM
  • 11
    I agree that the school should set a good example of healthy food. I remember in high school in the 60's when the Democrats were in charge that the choices of burgers and fries were instituted. I remember balanced meals in the 50's when I was in grade school without choices. I still got fat. I agree with one of the respondents above. Teaching children to make responsible and healthy decisions is the best thing. Oh and by the way, restart PE classes in school at all levels, and promote proper use of the body. Take away cell phones in the school during school hours, children need to concentrate on learning without distraction By the way exercise of the body is just as important as the nutritional intake. - 5/10/2012   11:40:20 AM
  • 10
    Great idea. - 5/10/2012   11:21:53 AM
  • 9
    First of all, KUDOS to CA! 160 calories per day might not seem like much, but that totals 3200-3680 calories in any given month. We all know that's roughly equal to a pound, so that can keep the kids from gaining a pound per month, or even help some of them lose a pound per month. That's a GREAT start!

    Also, in regards to a previous comment (#3) - I agree that children usually consume more of their meals at home, and therefore the food changes and the education also need to happen in the home. However, kids nowadays don't only get 180 meals per year from the school district. Where I live, they get both breakfast AND lunch 180+ days per year. Then, we also do this lovely thing where, ALL summer long, we give free lunches in the city parks to anyone ages 1-18. This all comes from the school district as well, so you can imagine the "quality" food they are being fed. So, in my town, the children are actually getting well over 400 meals per year from the schools. Taking even 100 calories out of each of those meals would total enough calories to make an 11+ pound difference each year. - 5/10/2012   11:17:29 AM
    I think this is a great idea. Diet affects how attentive you are, how much you can retain and I think we should help students put their best foot forward. - 5/10/2012   11:16:57 AM
  • 7
    Students can have up to three meals a day at school depending on the area they are from and thanks to our reduced/free meal plans. I think helping provide healthier choices (even if it is just one meal) will help students make better choices both inside and outside of the school day. - 5/10/2012   11:16:26 AM
  • 6
    I am of an older generation - and I see the "government" taking more and more control over our lives. And, to me, this is just another area - in the schools - where "it" is taking more control over the lives of our children. Sometimes, I wonder if it is really the stated objective or if there is another more subtle goal.

    Perhaps, I am becoming more and more cynical - the object of the school should be to teach our children to think - perhaps if they were taught to think about what they are eating and how if affects their lives, the children might on their own learn to eat better!! - 5/10/2012   11:15:38 AM
  • 5
    As long as there are healthy options, too, I don't see a problem with having junk food in schools. My daughter will pick a bowl of blueberries over a candy bar every time, even now that she's in school and the other kids get junk. The problem is the PARENTS. The meal plan at my daughter's school is all healthy, but the stuff people pack for their kids is awful. Besides, eventually, those kids will have to be in the real world where they will have to make informed choices. They had a full range at my school. Was pizza popular? Sure. But so were bagel sandwiches (toasted everything bagels with lettuce, cucumber, sprouts, tomato, provolone and garlic herb cream cheese). You had to get in the cafeteria EARLY to get one of those! - 5/10/2012   11:15:25 AM
  • 4
    Unfortunately, some schools will not go the healthier route because the money that comes from the snack machines is used to fund activities at the school. Healthier snacks would cut into their bottom line. - 5/10/2012   11:14:42 AM
  • 3
    Children go to school 180 days out of the year and have only ONE meal, so the problem with weight gain is at HOME where they have 5/6th of their meals. They target the schools since that gets LOTS of attention. - 5/10/2012   10:52:01 AM
  • 2
    Our school (where I retired from) is already on the right track. More fruits/ veggies and whole wheat. They do real well and keep the standards for foods.
    The problem is what they have at home, which we at the school can not control. - 5/10/2012   10:41:31 AM
    Check out the sodium content of some of the food items offered for School lunches. The calories may be low but the sodium is high. - 5/10/2012   10:37:30 AM

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