Should unhealthy snacks be removed from school vending machines?
March 8, 2012
By Jeremy Quattlebaum, Student Voices staff writer
Junk food and sugary snacks might be a little harder to find at school as the Obama administration has targeted the vending machines in its attempts to get the nation’s youth healthier.
After creating stricter food standards for what schools can serve you in the cafeteria (read the Speak Out
to find out more), the administration has begun establishing guidelines for what can and can’t be put in the vending machines in school buildings.
The guidelines, which will be available soon, will probably be akin to the new guidelines for cafeteria food, which cut back on staples like pizza and burgers and replaced them with healthy options like salads.
Nutritionists say that vending machines in schools are stocked with snacks like potato chips, cookies and sodas, and that healthy options are pretty hard to come by. But that is because the vending machines’ selections are often based more on what will make money as opposed to what is healthy.
Access to and consumption of sugary and unhealthy foods and drinks have led to a childhood obesity rate that has tripled in the past 30 years, with one of every five children obese, reports the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The vending machine companies are not thrilled about possible restrictions, arguing that the vending machines are already stocked with healthy options and that those options should not be banned. “(W)e are a little concerned that they might make the rules too stringent,” said James A. McCarthy, president of the Snack Food Association, a trade group in Washington, as reported by the New York Times.
Some schools are arguing that overly strict rules will also reduce revenue from the vending machines, which goes to fund after-school athletic programs and arts programs.
It’s not only the federal government that is addressing the issue of what lies behind the Plexiglas of a vending machine. The states of Georgia and Indiana have legislation pending that would allow only healthy foods in vending machines.
The argument as to which government should decide the content of vending machines is a complex one. Like guidelines on curriculum and cafeteria food, the federal government gives broad guidelines that are tied to federal funding. States for the most part handle the details, and the local administrations carry them out. This is considered devolution, a concept outlined in the 10th Amendment.What do you think?
Should the federal government establish guidelines as to what kinds of foods can be stocked in school vending machines? At what level of government should this decision be addressed, the state, federal or local level? Will restricting unhealthy foods from vending machines, in addition to the new food guidelines for school cafeterias, help curb childhood obesity? Join our discussion and let us know what you think!