Afterimage Review

Banning Soda And Candy Vending Machines From The Schools: The Nanny State Going Too Far?

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An increasing number of school districts are opting to ban soda, candy and snack vending machines from public junior high schools and high schools.

Each year, an increasing number of school districts throughout the U.S. as well as Canada are opting to ban soda, candy and snack vending machines from public junior high schools and high schools.

In many cities, schools are also used for numerous other events, including candidates’ debates prior to elections, polling places for the national as well as local elections, adult education and ESL courses, driver safety courses, blood drives, various charity events, and some schools are used as shelters during natural disasters.  Reporters from newspapers and local cable news show also often cover various events at schools, and this usually requires them to visit the schools where they’re covering the events.

Every one of those people who walks into school buildings pays taxes, and we’re telling them that if their lives aren’t already busy or complicated enough, they will now be unable to purchase a can of soda, a candy bar or a bag of potato chips while they’re on the school grounds.

What About Teen Obesity And Other Health Issues?

Yes, that’s the primary concern which contributes to the decisions that many school boards cite when they opt to ban vending machines in schools.  I fully appreciate that sodas, gum, candy, corn chips, cheese puffs, and potato chips are not the healthiest foods available.  And there are teens who do struggle with junk food addiction issues.  However, banning vending machines won’t actually assist them at all with their addiction issues.  Every one of those students will either walk, ride a bicycle, drive an automobile, take a subway/ light rail or a bus or have a family member or a friend drive them to school every morning, and they’ll be returning home the same way later in the afternoon.

Every single one of those students will have numerous opportunities to purchase those same snack items on their commutes to and from the schools that they attend, the absence of vending machines in the schools won’t actually prevent them from purchasing anything, it merely means that if they do want to purchase those items, they will simply be doing so elsewhere.

When local school boards opt to ban vending machines in schools, the ban only applies to schools which are publicly funded; private schools and religious schools are all privately funded, so the administrators at private schools and religious schools can opt to install any kinds of machines that they want to in their buildings, provided that the machines won’t violate any existing local, state or Federal laws (such as cigarette vending machines, for example.)

As I was researching this article, I was hoping to find a study which compares rates of obesity, blood pressure, tooth decay and gum disease among students of a given age group who live in the same cities, some of whom attend schools where soda and candy vending machines have been banned, and the other half of whom attend schools in which machines which sell candy and sodas are present, to determine whether there are any noticeable correlations between the presence or the absence of those vending machines and rates of teen obesity, high blood pressure, tooth decay or gum diseases. From what I was able to find, no such studies have yet been conducted.

In addition to vending machines which sell sodas, candies, popcorn and potato chips, vending machines which sell healthier snack options such as fresh fruit, fruit cups, yogurt, granola bars, packaged sandwiches, bottled water and fruit juices have existed since at least as far back as the 1970’s.

The administrators at some schools are now opting to install vending machines which sell healthier options too, and these programs have been successful so far.  If school boards are concerned about the health of students, they may want to consider the option of installing machines which sell healthier snacks in addition to the machines which sell candies, sodas, and chips.

At no time over the course of the past century have junior high schools and high schools actually been able to successfully rid their campuses of narcotics, cigarettes or alcohol during school hours.  It’s now easier for high school students to purchase illegal narcotics than it is for them to purchase a candy bar or a can of soda in many cities.

This issue has been discussed on school boards throughout the U.S. For those readers who are interested in seeing a variety of opinions on numerous aspects of this topic, you can read the newest comments that people are posting as well as post your own viewpoints on this issue on debate.org’s web page about vending machines in schools.

 

Read also: What I Learned Working at Starbucks for a Month

4 Comments

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  • Why not ban all foods from supermarkets , convenience stores and restaurants, is the same effect. Is all about education and moderation. Dont you think that teenagers consume outside schools or go into supermarkets and grab all kids nda of food and beverages including cndy and cakes, think again people you are fooling yourselves and overtaxing consumers.

    • If students are riding city buses, subways or light rails home from school, they’ll almost certainly pass through bus or train stations which have vending machines every day. They’re quite capable of making their own decisions as to whether or not they want to purchase a can of soda, a candy bar or a bag of potato chips. And if they are struggling with junk food addiction issues, banning the machines will accomplish nothing, they’ll merely go to convenience stores on their daily commutes to/ from school.

  • This is ignorant rot, IMO.

    The issue isn’t whether people have the right to buy crap that’s bad for them. They do.

    The issue is how best to help students learn, and nobody ever claimed that junk food does that.

    Likewise, so what if they can buy it somewhere else? Of course they can. But by putting in the school — and benefitting from the profits from its sale — school officials are endorsing its purchase and use.

    Though certainly there are those that might favor it, we don’t put gun-vending machines in school, and even in jurisdictions that have decriminalized pot, you can bet there won’t be pot vending machines in schools there either.

    Junk food is not healthful, and does not promote learning in the way that wholesomely derived nutrients in complete meals will. This isn’t just hot air; studies have shown that good nutrition promotes ability to learn.

    No other argument, though perhaps having truth to it, can have as much weight as what promotes the institution’s purpose, which is to help students learn.

    • In the old days, when we had to walk two miles in the snow to get to school in the streets of Los Angeles, there were no vending machines in schools. We did have cafeterias, where we were served lunch. I’m not sure how we survived.

About the author

Scott Benowitz

Scott Benowitz

Scott Benowitz is a staff writer for Afterimage Review. He holds an MSc in Comparative Politics from The London School of Economics & Political Science and a B.A. in International Studies from Reed College in Portland, Oregon. Scott lives in Rye, N.Y. photo credit: Liza Margulies

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