All Risk, No Reward
It’s no secret that kids today are eating more and more junk food. And who can blame them? The big junk food companies spend billions of dollars a year advertising directly to them. Without guidance from parents, they will all fall into the trap that is unhealthy eating. It’s convenient, easy and everyone is doing it. Schools are also on the hook for perpetuating this trend in unhealthy eating. Kids go to school to learn but there is a gaping hole in one area – nutritional education. Sure, kids may take a health class here and there but how much, if any, of that class is spent discussing the importance of eating habits in a long-term health plan? Vending machines in schools present many dangers to our kids. Here are 5 dangers school vending machines present to kids. Pay attention, parents and school administrators, because you’re the ones who need to push a much needed change.
1. Makes Kids Fat
The foods (and I use that term generously) available in traditional vending machines are high in calories, fat, sodium and preservatives. None of which are good for your body. Kids especially need a diet high in whole grains, fresh fruits and veggies and low in sugar and overly processed food. When vending machines are available all day long, the temptation is constantly there for quick snacks before, after, and between classes. Peer pressure and social eating contribute to a higher intake of vending machine products and before you know it, kids are snacking on unhealthy food all the time. The more they eat, the more they want. It becomes part of their everyday routine and as we all know, routines and habits are very hard to break.
2. Teaches Poor Eating Habits
Again, kids go to school to learn but what are they being taught when the junk food in school vending machines is all they have to choose from? Even if healthy choices are taught in health class, without healthy choices available in the vending machine, that lesson goes right out the window. Eating habits are formed very young; some say kids as young as 2 or 3 years old have formed preferences that carry into adulthood. Kids learn eating preferences from their parents most of the time. If one parent expresses a dislike for eggs, for example, chances are good that the child will not like eggs. If food choices at home are unhealthy, kids won’t think twice about buying a candy bar or bag of greasy chips at school. We need to break this cycle to get these kids back on track so they can have a healthy life down the road. Roughly 80% of obese kids will grow up to be obese adults. Poor eating habits lead to a poor quality of life as these kids get older.
3. Sugar Crash
There is a vicious cycle related to junk food. If your body is used to consuming it, it will crave it. If you eat a candy bar to satisfy your craving, you will likely experience what’s called the sugar rush. There is so much sugar in most of this junk food (and the snacks that are not sweet have so many empty carbs that they just turn into sugar and have the same effect) that kids will feel a sugar “high” of sorts and they will find it difficult to concentrate and focus. Similarly, after the initial effects of the snack wear off, kids will go through the sugar crash. This scientifically proven event affects the young brain in such a way that kids become mentally sluggish, they have a hard time paying attention and struggle with quizzes and tests. Since test scores are sometimes tied to government funding, schools really need to wake up to what sugar is doing to their students. Aside from the general health issues, vending machines in schools can effectively reduce the schools’ budgets.
4. Behavior Problems
Studies have shown that what a kid eats has a direct impact on his or her behavior. This may be considered crazy talk in a world where many doctors would just as soon diagnose a child with ADHD and prescribe medication than suggest the parent actually DO something and work with the child to improve his or her nutrition. That’s not to say that some kids don’t actually have behavior problems that may not be fixable with a new diet but what’s the harm in trying a new, healthy diet first? Schools perpetuate behavior problems of their students by allowing junk food to be sold on campus. Educators should know the link between diet and behavior and they should take that as a serious cue to do something to help their students get back on track. Parents can only do so much. When kids are confronted with junk food temptation in the vending machine day after day, they don’t have the willpower to stay on course.
5. Traditional Vending and New Guidelines
With the passage of the new Child Nutrition Act, it’s likely that food carried by the traditional vending machines in schools will no longer be allowed. This legislation gives more power to the USDA in determining what nutritional standards will be followed in schools. However, schools have become dependent on this revenue stream and simply removing vending machines altogether will place a strain on many budgets. So what’s the solution? One revolutionary company is making healthy vending machines available to schools. These machines serve only 100% natural, organic products that will help fight obesity and teach kids healthy eating habits. This company also offers grants to schools so they can place these machines on campus for free! These newly-designed, eco-friendly machines have built-in LCD monitors that can teach kids about what they’re eating. Nutritional education at the point of sale offers kids a benefit they don’t get with traditional machines. Giving kids a chance to actually see what they’re putting in their mouths goes a long way in helping them make smart snack choices.
Who is Responsible?
The danger lurks outside every cafeteria. The effects that these junk food machines have on our kids include poor performance in school as well as teaching them poor eating habits. Sub-par grades will hold them back in their educational career. And the habits they learn today will stay with them for years to come. Eating junk food on a regular basis will not only make kids fat, contributing to the ongoing obesity epidemic, but it will cause them to have major health issues like diabetes and heart disease very early in life. The responsibility for breaking this cycle lies with parents and school administrators. Parents, your job is at home, creating a strong foundation of smart food choices and making those choices readily available for your kids. Schools need to support the efforts of parents by also making healthy food choices available at school. Together we can put an end to this obesity epidemic and make school campuses danger-free!