Should unhealthy food be banned from school?Should unhealthy food be banned from school?

Expert Answers
pacorz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I am in charge of what goes into the food vending machines in my school, so I actually have to grapple with this question on an ongoing basis. It's so easy so just go with the knee jerk response of "yes, of course!", but the issue is not all that simple.

Are you including foods students bring from home? That's a huge question, and gets into personal rights and responsibilities. It also gets into issues other than the food itself. For example, a school near me made a rule change this year for all beverages; the only thing students are allowed to drink in school during the day is water, and it must be in a clear bottle. That sounds sensible enough, until you get into the plastics issue. I personally won't drink from plastic, even if it's BPA-free. I have a couple of (expensive) stainless water bottles, and that's what I use; if this rule went into effect at my school I'd have a problem with it.

Additionally, dividing foods into the categories of healthy versus unhealthy is not all that simple. As an example, let's consider beverages. Currently, according to federal hot lunch guidelines for beverages, schools are only supposed to sell water, 100% juice, milk, or drinks that use non- or low-calorie sweeteners. However research indicates that juice consumption can increase diabetes risk, and high juice consumption has some other health risks for small children. Artificial sweeteners have been positively associated with migraines, they have been shown to cause detrimental changes in amino acid metabolism, research is still underway on whether these substances promote cancer, and they may even be unsafe for diabetics. As you can see, I've done a lot of reading on them, and I personally believe that artificial sweeteners are extremely unhealthy, and I would never allow my children to have them. Who's to say what healthy or unhealthy foods really are?

I'd have to agree with #3, everyone would be much better served if we put our energies toward educating children on making their own healthy choices in all areas of life. Parents also need to be educated on how to afford and prepare healthier meals at home.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Some excellent points are made in the above posts. First, there is very little way to control what foods students bring from home. An attempt to ban certain foods that parents send their children would result in some seriously angry parents. As far as vending machines, I totally agree that schools should restrict the sale to healthy foods and drinks, though there will always be debate about what is healthy. Sodas are bad, Gatorade is good? Not necessarily. My main complaint is with the food served in cafeterias. Menus are based on affordable foods in most cases, and not healthy ones. Starchy foods predominate, sadly. Of course, part of the problem with cafeterias is that many students prefer to eat junk food--a favorite is frozen pizza--instead of a complete meal. Schools try to juggle the menus around their limited budget, and many schools can't afford to provide fresh veggies and wholesome proteins, and even if they do, many students won't buy them. As is usually the case with education and schools, learning begins at home, and until parents themselves take an active part in stressing and providing consistently nutritional meals at home, schools will always be at a disadvantage.

literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This question certainly needs to be moved to the discussion board!

I believe that the overwhelming response one would get to this question would be a resounding "Yes!" We, as a society, have seen a rise in weight issues. By providing more healthy meals at schools, students may be more likely (hopefully) to suggest similar eating at home.

Another reason that unhealthy schools should be banned from schools is that for some students, this is the only meal that they are insured for the day. Given the financial state of many homes, some students may only eat once a day. The meal they receive should be one that provides balance and good nutrition.

While the schools are in a financial strain as well, government programs help out with the meals provided. As much as they seem to be concerned about the obesity in some places, the concern does not seem to be the same when providing meat to schools which contain fillers.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with Posts 3 and 5 that simply banning unhealthy food is not a good way to proceed.

First of all, I think that we cannot possibly ban children from bringing unhealthy food from home.  I think in a way that it would be deeply offensive if we were to do so since we would then be in the position of dictating to parents what they could allow their children to eat.

Secondly, I think that blanket bans are not a good way to inculcate good habits.  I think that banning foods makes them seem more attractive.  Instead, I believe that education is the key to improving health.

Finally, I would say that we should ban vending machines that sell unhealthy food.  I think that lunches provided by the school should be generally healthy, but not to the point where they don't provide some sort of dessert or any meat or anything like that.

wannam eNotes educator| Certified Educator
I would say yes because students are not truly capable of making appropriate decisions at that age. If the cafeteria allows a student to buy pizza and a cookie rather than salad and an apple, of course the kid is going to grab the junk food. I agree that we should be teaching our children about proper nutrition and such as part of their overall education. However, I still think children, for the most part, lack the self-control to make this type of decision. Perhaps, we should be demonstrating healthy eating habits for them. It's okay for a school to have pizza friday if the rest of the week has been good, nutritious options. This is helping students understand how to eat healthy while still enjoying other food options.
larrygates eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Post #3 makes an excellent point, that the issue goes far beyond food choices; and that parents should be educated about healthy choices. I can think of no legal way that schools can prohibit kids from bringing certain foods to school; however I do think that we can discourage students by not offering unhealthy choices in school cafeterias, vending machines, etc. By doing so, we not only lmit kids access to unhealthy items (if they still want them they can bring them from home) we also make a statement to them about proper choices.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Banned from sale anyway.  It only seems logical that public schools should provide healthy food and teach healthy eating habits.  By not doing so they would merely be reinforcing obesity that is already at epidemic levels, at a much higher cost to society than fruits and vegetables now.  If parents still want to send fattening foods with their kids no one can stop them, but we could adopt a much more sensible policy for what the school makes available, particularly in the free and reduced lunch program.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a very difficult question to respond to. My first initial response is that yes, unhealthy food should be banned, as eating unhealthy food and drinking drinks that are high in sugar clearly impact children negatively. However, at the same time, I am aware that this is a rather extreme response. Perhaps what we should be doing instead is promoting healthier food whilst also investing a lot more in proper education of children and the kinds of food that they should be eating.

vangoghfan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

My response is somewhat ambivalent, like the response of # 3.  My first instinct is to say "yes"; my second instinct, rooted in an appreciation of freedom, is to say "maybe not."  In general I think that everything should be done to make healthy food accessible to students in schools.  Banning unhealthy food entirely may, ironically, make it more attractive to students because they may see it is "cool."

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I do not think schools should be selling junk food.  They sell it because it's profitable, making money off the backs of their children.  The so-called healthy alternatives in vending machines these days are hardly better.  We need fruits and salads, not sugary juice drinks!

kychong7 | Student

Fruits are definitely what's needed more because it is the healthiest food. I believe that unhealthy food like junk food should at least be restricted.

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