School Vending Machines Are Making Students Obese
Let’s face it, kids in America are fat. In fact, nearly 30% of them are obese! What is causing this obesity epidemic? Where does the blame lie? It’s hardly fair to blame the kids themselves; they are too young to make smart food choices when their parents aren’t around. And what about when their parents are around? What are you teaching your children about healthy eating habits? You may do the best you can at home and serve a well-rounded, properly portioned meal at dinner time but kids spend most of their days at school where you have no control over what they eat and how much they eat. We all know school lunches are not the healthiest meals in the world. Processed meals featuring frozen meat and starches lack the essential fruits, veggies and whole grains that kids need to maintain a proper body weight. Where else to kids get food at school? The dreaded school vending machines are taking your kids’ money and making them fat.
The Effects of Eating Junk Food at School
There are many reasons kids don’t need to eat junk food at school. Not only does it affect their physical health, it affects their mental health as well. Eating a bunch of empty calories and processed junk does not fill you up and it zaps your energy. Kids are not getting any “value” from this type of food. It does not fuel their bodies or give them energy to perform throughout the day. They’ll have a sugar rush followed quickly by a sugar crash which leaves them wanting another sugar “high” and the vicious cycle continues. Same goes for salty carb-loaded snacks. Carbs just turn to sugar and have the same effect on a kid’s metabolism. A junk food diet will also cause kids to lose focus, feel sluggish and perform poorly in class and on tests. Blood circulation can even slow down if you eat too much junk food and fat gets in the way of blood flow. Brain capacity can also be compromised as a steady diet of junk food will cause a lack of oxygen, nutrients and proteins to your brain. Further effects include heart disease and high cholesterol. As you can imagine, having these health issues as a young child can have a major impact on a kid’s life long-term. It’s much harder to correct these health problems than it is to just avoid them in the first place. Fat kids turn into fat adults which is why over 25% of Americans are obese. Learning proper eating habits as children will help these kids maintain a healthy weight and body fat percentage as they grow older. School vending machines do NOT help kids make healthy eating choices.
Why Do Schools Have Vending Machines?
It seems so obvious that if you remove the vending machines in schools, kids will eat better. It’s not that simple, unfortunately. Our schools are terribly underfunded and vending machines offer them a profit stream that they need for their operational budgets. Schools do receive money from the government under the National School Lunch Program which feeds more than 30 million kids each day in over 101,000 schools. But it’s simply not enough. One dollar per student is not enough to provide them with a healthy meal. So schools supplement cafeteria offerings by adding vending machines as another food option for students. The profit margins of vending machines are huge because the mark-up is so high. And students will visit the vending machines again and again because of the addictive power sugar and carbs have on the body.
Changes In Store For School Vending
There is a light at the end of the junk food tunnel. Legislation is up for vote that could mark the end of the school vending machine era. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act will give more money to schools and will allow the Secretary of Agriculture to establish nutritional standards for schools. Parents and schools can also play a huge role in the eating habits of our kids. Schools can voluntarily remove junk food vending machines and/or replace them with healthy vending machines that offer kids nutritional choices that will fill them up and help them focus throughout the day. Parents, the real change needs to come from you. Start with the way you eat. Kids see what you eat and they are more likely to listen to your nutrition advice if you are eating healthy foods yourself. You can’t eat pizza and expect your kids to eat salad. Get your kids involved in cooking healthy meals. The more invested they are in the process, the more likely they are to eat something they are not usually fond of. Perhaps most importantly, parents need to put pressure on their kids’ schools to make the necessary changes. Most school administrators will just let the vending machines stay put if they are not encouraged to remove them. If you take a stand for your kids’ health, schools will be forced to make a change.
We all know that change must occur to help our kids get back on track. They are simply too fat and the fault lies with schools and parents. Vending machines are the major culprit, however, as they continue to supply our kids with junk food that compromises their health and their ability to learn. Change needs to come from both parents and schools in order to remove these machines and improve the chances our kids have in life. Their success in school, college, their professional lives, and their health depends on it.