According to articles which appeared in the September 16th issues of NEWSWEEK and U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT, as well as the September 24th issue of THE NEW YORK TIMES, the American school systems are guilty of coaxing our children whom we entrust to them into dietary self-destruction. The purported incentive is the huge payoffs received from the junk-food companies.
U.S. NEWS, in a brief sidebar entitled “Oil Change,” flashed a small ray of hope by reporting that one of the schools’ major suppliers, McDonald’s, is switching to a shortening which contains only “—about half the trans fatty acids or trans fats (read: very bad fats) that they do now.”
One cause for the uproar is the fact that “…researchers over the past decade discovered that trans fats can hike harmful cholesterol levels and block arteries as much or more than the much-maligned saturated fats in food like red meat, ice cream and butter.”
The same week, NEWSWEEK, in its column entitled “Periscope,” carried the headline “How to Flunk Lunch.” The magazine gave its own method of grading the nutritional value of school lunches in various cities. An example of grades it awarded: Fort Lauderdale – B; Miami, Fairfax, Virginia and New York – C; Dallas and Los Angeles – D; Philadelphia and Detroit – F. In addition, the statement was made that “By high school, schools are looking like a 7-Eleven with books.”
The half-page article in the NEW YORK TIMES was entitled “Schools Teach 3C’s: Candy, Cookies and Chips,” and begins with the assertion that “…in more and more schools nationwide, children from kindergarten through high school are being taught that ‘nutrition’ comes in boxes of fast foods, candy wrappers and soft-drink cans and bottles.
“In many schools, fast-food companies have co-opted the lunch program, and children have ready access to soft-drink and snack machines. In the classroom, too, children in 12,000 schools are required to watch a 12-minute television program every day with two minutes of commercials from companies like McDonald’s, Hershey, Pepsico, Coca-Cola, KFC, Frito-Lay, Domino’s and 7Up.”
A New York University instructor is quoted as stating that, “Given their purchasing power, numbers, potential as future customers and captive status, it is no wonder that food companies view school children as an unparalleled marketing opportunity.”
The article points out that “To be sure, in exchange for advertising and the opportunity to sell their nutritionally wanting products in schools, corporations often contribute money and materials desperately needed by schools.
The situation is probably best described by San Francisco school board member Jill Wynns: “The law requires your future customers to come to a place 180 days a year where they must watch and listen to your advertising messages exclusively. Your competitors are not allowed access to the market. The most important public institution in the lives of children and families gives its implied endorsement to your products. The police and schools enforce the requirement that the customers show up and stay for the show.”