Food for Thought: The Big Ban Theory
Removing sugary options from schools isn't wrong. But calling it a “ban” might be.user rating
Flavored milk is the new soda. That is, it’s the latest caloric indulgence school districts have begun to pull from K-12 campuses. The Los Angeles School District—the second largest in the country—is among the forerunners of the flavored-milk ban, having voted to eject all forms of sugar-laced milk drinks, such as chocolate and strawberry, starting this fall. Washington, D.C., Public Schools and Berkeley, Calif., schools have set similar restrictions, and Florida schools have considered doing the same.
This move has caused the obligatory half-hearted uproar among pockets of “affected” denizens. Similar to the outrage over banning sugary sodas and candy vending machines in several school districts, naysayers are arguing that the removal of these processed, sugary items infringes on certain inalienable rights. (Do they mean candy? Or obesity?)
Maybe it’s the term ban that blows these shifts toward healthier choices out of proportion. If what’s actually happening was more plainly stated—that contracts are ending and board members have consciously chosen not to renew them—fewer knee-jerk reactions might ensue.
The ban on sugary food or drink sales at schools is anything but. Ask any student: If he wants a candy bar, he won’t be hard-pressed to get one, whether from home or a local grocery or convenience store. In fact, one study showed that the removal of soda from a high school in Maine had very little impact on the habits of students at that school.
So where does the positive effect come into play? Rather than chastising this movement as a ban on processed, sugary foods, it should be seen as an opportunity for healthier, more nutritious options. New vending machines selling fresh fruits and vegetables, baked (versus fried) snacks and healthier beverages are cropping up in schools, hospitals and office buildings from companies like Fresh Healthy Vending and h.u.m.a.n. Healthy Vending. Products include Popchips, Honest Tea beverages and Stonyfield Organic yogurts and smoothies, and—get this—people like them.
If unhealthy temptations are not only removed but replaced by more nutritious (and still tasty) ones in a place where hundreds, thousands, of students spend a third of their youth learning—from textbooks, yes, but from their surroundings and peers no less—the desire for instant gratification may see some restraint, and the impressionable minds—and fast-developing habits—of children and teens may take a turn for the better.—Eva Meszaros