I say it is about time. But it will not be that easy, even with childhood obesity on the rise, which leads to the increase of childhood-onset Type II Diabetes.
Why the big fight to get vending machines out of our kids schools, or at least taking the unhealthy stuff out? The answer is the money. Schools rely on vending machine profits to use in after-school programs. So does that mean that we need to sell our kids’ health down the river so the track team has sports jerseys? That seems to be the case.
It was not long ago when no schools had vending machines. There were none in my schools growing up in the 80′s. Looking back on it now, I am certain that I would have been an obese kid if there were. I was a snack junkie as a kid. A few times a week, I would venture out for a snack run for candy, pop, or maybe a slice of pizza. My pocket money was shared between my two kid vices of video games and snack foods. The thing about my snack run was that I had to either walk or ride my bike to the store to get them.
I grew up in the edge of the New Jersey suburbs, so the closest store was 2-3 miles from my house. That meant that my snack runs required at least a 4-6 mile bike ride. And if I wanted a slice of pizza and a visit to the video arcade, it was a ten mile round-trip by bike. Nowadays kids camp out in front of their computer, but we had the arcade. I figure all of my bike riding to get snacks helped keep me fit. My snacking had put an extra 10-15 pounds on me as a kid, but I was never obese.
But what would have happened if I had a ready supply of pop, candy, and snacks right out my classroom door? It is hard to say for sure, but I figure I would have had a bottle of soda and an ongoing bag of chips, or candy bar in my book-bag at all times. My every couple of days snack runs would have been replaced with several vending machine trips daily. Even though I was a snack and candy junkie, I never ate them during school time. Sure, I ate tater tots, and pizza in the cafeteria, but there was no soda, pastry, cookies, chips, candy or desserts offered.
Those 20-ounce sodas in the vending machine can be 250 calories and they can add up. If the average kid had just one of those a day five days a week thats 1250 calories a week, 5000 a month, 60,000 a year. A pound of fat in excess calories is 3500. So that one soda a day of extra calories could create a 17 pounds weight gain in a year.
The lack of vending machines in my school most likely saved me from an unhealthy childhood. Today children have no such protection. Schools have entered into an unhealthy bargain with snack, and beverage companies for money, that in my opinion, should come from the public. I remember kids would come around to my house and ask for a booster donation for their teams. Now soda and snack companies are our sports team boosters, but at a price.
Hopefully there is the political will to reverse the vending machine trend. Kids deserve better.