Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Ban Vending Machines, Solve Obesity? Hardly.

Connecticut just might ban vending machines selling soft drinks and snacks in public schools. This, proponents argue, will help stave off childhood obesity. Opponents say it’s just a feel-good measure that would do nothing but take funds away from schools.

Childhood and adolescent obesity are definitely problems. But removing vending machines? Isn’t that a bit like trying to bail out the Titanic with a pail? While I don’t think students have an innate right to buy junk food at school, neither do I think banning vending machines is going to do a thing to stop obesity.

We had vending machines throughout my school district as early as 1987. Since I graduated high school in 1993, the adolescent obesity rate as gone up nearly 50%. I think this is a problem being fueled by a lot more than just a few Cokes and Snickers bars being sold at school.

If the Connecticut government wants to do something to combat obesity among its youth, how about looking into dietary education, physical fitness courses and other means that would surely have a better chance of success. Removing vending machines, while not some huge violation of rights, is still an example of government at its worst—taking something away in lieu of addressing the problem for real.


At 8:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i like what you have to say.. and heres another idea..instead of banning vending machines..why dont they stock them with healthier snacks and stock the pop machines with water and juices? maybe even sobes and gatorade? thats what my school does ( theres still pop and chips ..but thats not all!). also uping phys. ed classes would be good and the idea of nutrition classes. i mean, you learn about some basic components of a diet in biology class ( sometimes) but it doesnt hit home well enough.

At 9:55 PM, Blogger Alan Stewart Carl said...

You're right. Requiring that vending machines also stock some healthy snacks and drinks would be a much better option. You'd have to define what "healthy" is, but that's preferable to just banning vending machines altogether and pretending like a problem has been solved.

At 10:07 PM, Blogger Lily said...

The problems isn't of the prescence of vending machines... but rather of the expensive prices of the healthier foods, and the system in which the lunch lines are set up, so that it may take on average about half of a lunch period to get your lunch. As a current high school student, I can testify to the fact that I only buy from the vending machines when I don't have enough money or enough time to buy lunch from the regular lines.

Also the school simply does not supply healthy foods such as fruit for sale. Students know we should be healthy, but we simply do not have the time or desire to spend four to five times the amount of money on lunch for more healthy food.

If the school sold oranges for 50 cents or even 75 cents, I would personally much rather buy that then spend a dollar on fries (which is the cheapest food current available, besides chips and cookies). Also when you consider that you can buy soda for a dollar and water or gatorade for a dollar fifty, is it any wonder which students go for?

Vending machines are not the problem, a supply of healthy foods and reasonable access and pricing of such foods are what would help eliminate obesity from a dietary cause.

At 10:51 PM, Blogger Alan Stewart Carl said...

I wonder if anyone in the Connecticut assembly has spoken with students.

At 10:41 AM, Blogger Jonathan C said...

As a resident of CT, I've been following this story. Two of the suggestions you propose are actually part of the new policy: stocking machines with healthier food ("healthier," not necessarily "healthy" in its own right), as well as mandating an additional 20 minutes of exercisee per day over and above normal phys-ed programs. Just thought you'd like to know.

I agree that actual dietary education, a revamped fitness program, and all the others would have more effect. HOWEVER, there is one big difference between the junk-food ban and those suggestions: money. It doesn't cost the state anything to pull junk food out of vending machines, but there are many costs invoved in implementing new educational programs. Besides, what parent is going to vote to replace world history class with "Nutrition 101" as a graduation requirement?

At 8:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

California is also a state that wants to ban vending machines from schools unless filled with "healthy" foods. Our schools are too crowded...lunch lines too long. Obesity did not just become a problem and I would have to say it generally begins in the home...eating out constantly, etc. Educating our kids about the health dangers of high fat foods, is far better then taking away their right to choose what they eat. Isn't this America...home of the free? It appears that students have lost their freedom of speech, and freedom of choice. What's next? THere is too much control from the unknown. It's hard to fight what you can't see.

At 12:52 AM, Anonymous Weight Loss said...

Cool, Your blog on solving obesity is excellent.
I marked it in my browser to visit again. Maybe we need to make nutrition, and physical education mandatory courses in elementary school.


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