Ontario students in a Brampton high school are fighting the 2011 ban of all junk food available in their cafeteria. They want to bring back chocolate bars, greasy fries, chicken fingers, fatty pizza and all sugar beverages. Their argument is that offering healthy options is fine, but students should be given a choice.
They are currently leaving the school and going to fast food spots to get their "fix" of sugar, fat and salt. They also say that profits from the school cafeteria support social events and now there is a loss in revenues directly affecting the students' extracurricular life.
I was interviewed on both radio and television about my thoughts. The country has to wake up to the fact that we have an obesity epidemic, increasing rates of diabetes type 2, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. These are no longer adult diseases. Children and teens are now being diagnosed with these chronic and often fatal diseases; thus the reason for the schools mandate.
The cause no doubt is the increase of available and inexpensive fast food loaded with addictive fat, sugar and sodium all responsible for our current health situation. Well before 2011, the government stated that "junk" food would be banned and prepared the schools for this new direction. I don't blame the students for being upset since I don't believe there was an educational strategy put into place to teach the students about the dangers of fast food.
A school is a place for education. School should be the role model for healthy eating and living. Students are given democratic choices in what they choose to eat, since they are free to leave campus and go elsewhere.
Students live "in the moment" and serious diseases are only what "older" adults get, not them. They don't realize that today they are setting the stage for what will happen to their health in the near future. If a teen is overweight by the age of 18, there's a high correlation to obesity for life. Obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol in teens is setting the stage for heart and stroke disease, diabetes type 2 and increased risk of cancers in their 30s and 40s not in their 50s and 60s.
We don't have a medical system that can support young adults stricken with these life-threatening diseases. We already have a health care system that is stretched to its limits.
The problem is a catch 22. It is difficult to just step into schools and declare new rules without a proper strategy and education plan to help students understand why these steps are taking place.
Education must begin in public school and parents have to "buy in" as well. My hope is that over the next couple of decades there will be enough pressure by society to radically curb the purchases of fast foods that are killing us! Some fast food restaurants, such as McDonalds, are being proactive and offering smaller portions of unhealthy foods, declaring visual nutritionals in the stores and offering an increased amount of healthier options. But time is of the essence!
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