Should junk food be banned at school ?

A lot of you may have long said your good byes to the sloppy or delightful school dinner rush, but for the sake of those who are still attending school or have children and are actually bothered about what their kids eat; should junk food be banned at school?

When I first attended high school, which only feels like yesterday, but in reality was some ten years ago, the question of what you eat was not a huge issue. There were vending machines packed with all your well known crisps and chocolates and fizzy drinks.  The actual menu was no better, from greasy chips to really cheap and poorly prepared chicken wings that looked like they fell off the back of a lorry.  Oh, and did I forget to mention, more chocolates and crisps too.

Enough to turn young kids off, right? The opposite happened, as I am sure many of you can imagine it was chaos from the get go, especially the transition from primary school, where you get a small tray and a limited option of junk or more junk, to secondary school, where you get a massive tray and endless supply of junk with fizzy drink to wash it down.   I too was apart of this in the first few months of school but once the novelties of king size everything was over, I knew I wanted something different.

So I decided I was going to look for something other than junk.  I searched for a while, I couldn’t see anything remotely green and I remember asking one of the cooks what health foods they had.   The woman looked puzzled and she responded with “What pizza and hot dogs not good enough for you?” I replied  “No”.   She then grunted and pointed over to a small section that seemed camouflaged as if it was not meant to be touched. They had Jacket potatoes, Peas, Carrots, fresh Tomatoes, Pasta; that sort of food

Although it was a very small section, I took my meals from there for the next 3 years until the section was removed. Then I converted to a packed lunch, prepared at home.  So I ask, what has really changed since I lost my school tie and blazer in 2007?

We have had the likes of Jamie Oliver going into schools in the U.K and America, trying to get healthy foods included on the school menus. There has been some success and some failure as some of the schools he went to were stuck in their old ways with ‘freedom of choice’ held up as their excuse.

Do they have a point?   A feisty, argumentative teenager would tell you “It’s my body and I will do what I want with it”.  Would banning junk food in schools help or would kids just leave the school premises at lunch time and go down to Maccy D’s for a Big Mac, fries and a large coke.  Or better still; get their parents to pack all their favourite non-healthy foods in their packed lunch boxes.  Even if they made things harder by confiscating food deemed unhealthy, it would probably become like young school kids going behind the bike shed to have a smoke like a game, ‘look at me, I’m cool’.

To present times I have seen a lot of changes in different schools where they have made a fair attempt to switch up the menus to more healthy options but there is no conviction behind them.   I find it apparent that it is more for the local inspector/ Ofstead report rather than to helping the youth of today out. But whatever the incentive, in most schools it has been done and at least for the ones that do decided to eat it, that’s one good meal in their tummies.  I don’t think the question should be ‘should junk food be banned in schools’ but rather ‘should junk food be banned’ full stop…everywhere!

Even if we enforce the provision of healthy foods in all schools as a standard, who is to say that the children will not continue to eat the junk food at home or at the fast food joint down the road from the school.  Reports suggest that Children are thirty times more likely to become obese than 20 years ago. Which I am sure in Europe and the U.S, will only rise if things do not change.

I see it like this; Junk food is not real food and normally has zero nutritional value in it, but lets face it, a lot of people are too tired from a hard day’s work to cook a healthy meal and some just may not be able to avoid it as it cost more so they opt for the unhealthy foods.

But I do think it is more than that let me give you an example. We are taught in history throughout the ages, at school including the civil and world wars. Now if this was not taught in a lesson, would you know that the treaty of Versailles was signed on the 28th of June 1919?  If the answer is no, then how do we expect the vast majority of people to know about health eating with no formal instruction?  Some might say” Google it” but most will not as they have stuck to the way they eat for so long they see nothing wrong with it. I do think there should be lessons about food and drink as a whole so people have a better understanding, if not a fair choice of what is actually on offer and the benefits to be had.

If they then choose to eat the unhealthy stuff, then that would be their choice. Everyone has the right to make decisions in there own lives whether we agree with them or not. But I do agree that healthy eating like most things start from home and having good role models setting the way to healthy eating habits. I think it is crucial in the beginning stages of life, then at least there is not a blame game or guilt trip on society because some continue to eat junk food as it would be their informed choice and decision to eat it.

I think until that day comes when there is a better understanding of food and the effects of good nutrition, the price of healthier foods will remain relatively high. The high cost of good food needs to fall for junk food to become less popular and eventually dwindle away.  Unfortunately, I only see more of the same in the next 20 years.   There has been slow progress as whole towards healthy eating   and at least now there are many more people willing to try, even for a short period, which is always reassuring.  But I think it makes people like myself hungrier (no pun intended) to at least tell the public that they do have a choice.   There is another way that can lead you to a longer more prosperous life its like the matrix the red pill or the blue pill  Morpheus never forces Neo… the choice is yours.

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