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Junk and fast food sale should be limited or banned in public schools as these food items have no nutritional value. Regular intake of junk food causes obesity and many other health related problems for children in the future. The main cause for the increase in sales of snacks and junk food is its increased availability and misguidance of nutritional value. Vending machines are installed in public schools which has given a boost to the sales of junk food. This junk food not only lacks in nutrition, but also it is the main cause of obesity in the young population and rise in heart problems in the adolescents.
Nutritional Quality of Junk and Fast Food
There is a conflict between the education of healthy diets at child's home and classroom and the availability of junk and fast food at lunch such as burgers and chips (Hoerr, 386). Not only the children consume the junk food available but also they consume soft drinks which are an added unhealthy intake. Young teenagers studying in public schools are the heaviest consumers of junk and fast food. They obtain around 25 to 40 percent of their total energy from junk and fast food (Hoerr, 386).
The vended junk and fast foods are the least dense in Vitamins, fiber, protein and iron (Hoerr, 386). Type of items that are usually available for sale at the public schools is bakery sweets, candies, chips, biscuits and burgers. All these items are calorie filled with little or no nutrition. Nutritious food helps the child in school to gain energy as well as nutrients such as iron, calcium, vitamins and proteins. These nutrients are good for health of the child and keep the child active. A proper meal in the school allows the child to obtain these nutrients that are necessary for a healthy body and brain.
Rise in Demand for Junk and Fast Food
The total sale of vended snacks and other fast food available at the public schools increases continually every year (Hoerr, 386). Since the 1990s the sale of junk food and snacks has been predicted to rise every year by the food marketers. Marketers of the fast food and junk items have got a new market to focus on which is the adolescents in public schools.
Fast food and vended snacks have become a popular choice for the youngsters, who need readily available food, when they feel hungry, and food which can be consumed easily and quickly (Hoerr, 386). This increasingly popular fast foods and snack items are the main factors which lead to obesity in the young people attending schools. Regular intake of this type of junk food with no nutrients causes obesity in children and other health related problems. According to a survey in New York and Atlanta, of the total 18% of daily fat calorie intake, the junk food contributed to almost half of the fat intake in adolescents (Hoerr, 386). Therefore half of the daily fat intake can be avoided by stopping the intake of junk food and fast food.
The snacks marketers are now targeting public schools as their new target markets for increasing their sales of their junk and fast food items. Through the installation of unrefrigerated vending machines in public schools, the marketers were able to increase the sale of junk food products. Not only this, but through the misinterpretation of nutritional value of their products, they are able to make the adolescents consume junk food in place of breakfast. 6% of the youngsters (Hoerr, 386) who were surveyed in New York and Atlanta said they took junk food in place of breakfast.
Obesity and Other Health Issues
The availability of junk and fast food in public schools allows more calories for each meal (S.B Communications, 95) for the children and youngsters. Physical exercise has been diminished in the schools because of the introduction of new activities such as computer studies and gaming. Our lifestyle has become more and more dependent upon technology. Technology and innovation has given birth to new transport methods which are faster and require less walking to get to your destination.
Children used to go out and play for fun and entertainment. The adolescents had other outdoor activities which helped in burning their fat intake, but nowadays the youngsters have other replacements such as computer games, internet and television. These platforms require no physical activity and therefore the fat intake from junk food does not get utilize. These were some of the reasons because of which the youngsters are getting more obese and gaining fat in their bodies.
However, the main reason for the increased number of cases in obesity is the rising trend of having junk and fast food in replacement of meals. In the 1970s, a typical child used to watch television for an hour daily but nowadays a child watches television for three hours (S.B Communications, 95). This caloric intake of junk and fast food combined with no physical activities, has caused an increase in obesity rate to 20% from 5% (S.B Communications, 95) since the 1970s. The rate for African American adolescents is even higher and has reached 35% (S.B Communications, 95). The only way to reduce these rates is to restrict or completely ban the sale of junk and fast food in public schools.
The regular intake of junk and fast food does not only increase a person's weight but also causes other health concerns. Especially in young adults, the regular consumption of fast food can reduce the ability of the body to fight the germs as there is very less nutritional intake. This causes the body's defenses to be weak against any germs attacks. Other health issues that the regular consumers of fast food and junk food can experience are cardiac unrest, Coronary Artery Risk Development, increased waist circumference, lower insulin resistance and imbalance between the developments of High-Density Cholesterols and Low-Density Cholesterols in body.
Although obesity causes some of the above mentioned diseases and health issues, but the person consuming junk food regularly is bound to have some or all of these health problems. Most of the junk foods have high sugar contents, which reduce the resistance of insulin to produce controlled sugar for the body. The adolescents and children in public schools can develop these diseases at a very early stage because of junk food intake. Hence junk and fast food items sale should be banned or at least restricted in all the public schools to protect the youngsters from developing these diseases and falling prey to obesity.
Junk Food and Education on Nutrition
According to a faculty member of Department of Nutrition, University of Nevada, the children and youngsters should be taught the basics of nutrition and how important it is to get involved in physical exercise (Omaye, 108). According to this member of faculty, labeling food as junk and trying to get it out of the schools is not important (Omaye, 108) as education on basic nutrition and exercise is. I would strongly disagree to the view point of this faculty member and would support the suggestion of US Dept. of Agriculture which has defined “competitive foods to be those other than the ones served in the school lunch/breakfast program and offered at schools” (Omaye, 108).
The US Dept. of Agriculture has suggested that alternatives to the current fast food should be developed and offered at public schools. This competitive food will be more nutritious and healthy than the junk and fast foods available for sale at the public schools nowadays. On the other hand, the faculty member in University of Nevada, Department of Nutrition, has suggested not to restrict the sale of junk food in public schools instead the children should be taught about the nutritious foods and importance of exercise. This is very similar to suggesting that drugs should be available for sale to the children but they should be taught about the adverse affects of abusing drugs.
We should understand that most of the children and the adolescents are not mature enough to think about the adverse affects of the junk food and fast food. They like the taste of the junk food and the convenience of having fast food whenever they feel hungry.
Trends towards Nutritious Snacks
According to the research conducted by Hoerr and Louden in 1993, there is a demand for healthy and nutritious snacks in public schools (Hoerr, 389). In their research, they placed vending machines labeled ‘healthy snacks' near to the junk food vending machines in a number of public schools. They recorded more sales from the vending machines selling healthy and nutritional snacks than the one selling junk food. This clearly shows that the youngsters have a preference for nutritious snacks over junk and fast food.
Although some nutritious snacks are available in the market, but they have not been able to eye the competent junk and fast food brands in the market. One reason for the poor success of nutritional snacks is the unavailability of vending machines at the places where junk food vending machines are placed. Another reason for their failure is that not many nutritious snacks have been developed for unrefrigerated vending machines (Hoerr, 389).
According to a study conducted by Marcia Dadds, almost one third of the school children in New York are overweight (Dadds, S63). Most of the students did not like the lunch offered at school and spent $3 to $7 (Dadds, S63) on fast food meals. Although most of the students know about the health, appearance and weight problems that the junk and fast food cause but still they are unable to give it up because of the established taste. Because of the problems the fast food and junk food cause to the health of children and because of no nutritional value, it should be available in a restricted manner or completely banned from public schools. Other alternatives such as nutritious snacks should be embraced by the public schools for the betterment of health and future of the children.