Schools and Junk Food

school foodJunk food is ridiculously easy to get a hold of. It is usually the cheapest food available; you can find it at every convenience store, gas station, and grocery store; and it takes very little time to prepare.

The Problem

We all know these nutrient-hallow foods are contributing to the growing childhood obesity problem. However, there is one junk food culprit that many people aren’t aware of: our schools. For example, the Center for Disease Control says approximately 1/3 of U.S. high schools provide their students with very easy access to a variety of junk food treats.

Many schools are making progress with their school lunches. It should be encouraging to note that some schools are putting in the effort to offer more nutritious options for student lunches.  In fact, the number of schools that sold junk food during lunch dropped almost 15 percent between 2004 and 2006 (53% to 37%).

However, we shouldn’t rejoice just yet; the same schools included in this study continued to sell high numbers of junk food before and after school. Their vending machines are packed with high-calorie, overly salty treats inside.

Schools that provide snacks to students via vending machines often keep a majority of the revenue for themselves. In a day where public schools are seeing a lot of cuts, this is often the only option (or so it seems) to bring in a little extra cash.


Fortunately, there are ways for schools to hold onto this extra source of revenue while making sure they are doing all they can to keep their students healthy. Having a vending machine on campus does not mean it can only sell junk food.  Healthy snacks are tasty too! Schools can choose to stock their vending machines with things like baked potato chips, dried fruit, and non-sugary drinks.

Schools can also keep their students healthy by inviting the students to join in the process. If schools let their students know the healthy initiatives that they are trying to take, the students won’t feel duped into eating healthier treats.

Some districts are taking their own initiatives, such as refusing to offer salt with student lunches. However, this is causing a lot of students to ban school lunches altogether. While cutting back on unhealthy foods that are high in fat, sodium, or cholesterol is important, it is almost important to offer alternatives. Kids don’t want to eat plain, bland lunches. Instead of forgoing taste altogether, schools can offer healthier spreads and seasonings.

Substitutions have proven to be effective in many schools. In fact, studies show schools that implement substitutions for unhealthy foods are doing just as well financially as they were before.

School lunches have always had a reputation for being a little scary. However, schools have the power to make their food more kid-friendly while ensuring high nutritional value.

About The Author
Guest blogger Ann Allen writes for various sites around the web; as a nurse and mother, she has a lot of knowledge about a lot of topics!  Experiences in her professional life have shown her just how devastating childhood obesity can be.  She helps her own kids counter-act their unhealthy food choices by being active; right now, the family’s favorite activities are corn toss and bike rides.

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