Fast and Furious: Is the “Quick” and “Convenient” Food Offered at Your Children’s School Killing them?

As we’ve covered in the past, A 2001 Harvard School of Public Health study found that for each soda or juice drink a child drinks a day, the child’s odds of becoming overweight increase 1.6 times.

Two angry Moms, Amy Kalafa and Susan Rubin, would be horrified. With their documentary, they’ve been trying to make headway with the schools with regard to changing their food plans and vending machines over to providing healthier options.

There are some success stories but as highlighted by the Washington Post this morning, there are also many schools that are failing or flailing as they try to balance what children want, what is feasible within their budgets, and what is actually good for the children and teens to consume.

Consequently, many teens are not making healthy choices.

Flores smooths her bills against the machine and tries once more. Out falls her meal — 530 calories and 25 grams of fat, or French Onion Sun Chips and Linden’s big fudge chip cookies. Ka-ching. Ka-ching. Ka-ching.

“I wouldn’t call it lunch,” she said as she gathered her change of 75 cents. “I know it’s not healthy, but it’s not like they’re selling fruits.”

So while the airwaves are flooded with people crying “obesity!” and “unhealthy children!” and many of our children are suffering from poor body image since we’re stressing dieting and appearance over eating healthy foods and exercising, here many of our school stand, providing sub par food choices to our children. So much for feeding the mind and bodies of our kids. Vending machines may be considered the enemy, but they are our children’s schoolmates for about 8 or more hours everyday.

To students, the machines are often an alternative to long lunch lines and sometimes unappetizing food.

We’ve done such a poor job for so long that schools feel that they must “phase in” good foods slowly so not to “shock” the children.

Bladensburg’s vending machines are more healthful than most, and fewer than half the school’s 2,100 students buy snacks and sodas from the machines on a typical day. Rice Krispies Treats (150 calories, 3.5 grams of fat) are an improvement from Snickers bars (280 calories, 14 grams of fat). Baked chips have replaced fried.

Yes. But can we call it lunch? And while Rice Krispy Treats are “better” where is the nutrition? I mean, it’s seems like where comparing unfiltered cigarettes to filtered ones—one might not be as bad but they’re still all bad for you.

Problems kids are citing that lead them to the vending machines:

(1) Long lunch lines

(2) Unappetizing lunch options

(3) Lunch is too close to breakfast (often just an hour and a half after the kids arrive)

What about “cheaper?”


For a $1.85 school lunch, these students could gobble up pizza, collard greens, fresh fruit and calcium-fortified juice. Instead, many are spending $2 to $3 on vending goods.

Chef Anne Cooper, famous “lunch lady” revolutionizing school lunch in Berkley, California (and sister to Powerful Words Mom and friend, Ruth Cooper and Aunt to Powerful Words student Abby!), recommends:

  • Children ages 6-9 should aim for 4-7 servings daily
  • Children ages 10-14 should aim for 5-8 servings daily
  • Teens ages 14-18 should aim for 6-9 servings daily

And no, the Rice Krispy Treats DO NOT constitute a whole grain!

As well as:

  • 4-9 servings daily of veggies
  • 3-5 servings daily of fruits
  • 2-3 servings daily of calcium-rich foods/drinks
  • 2-3 servings daily of lean proteins
  • 3-4 servings daily of healthy fats
  • 2-3 servings per week of red meat at most due to it’s high saturated fat
  • Added sugars and fats should be eaten rarely
  • 8 glasses of water

So what are we fighting against?

Top Vending Machine Sales, according to Automatic Merchandiser

1. Snickers

2. Doritos Big Grab

3. Peanut M&Ms

4. Cheetos Crunchy

5. Cheez-It Original

Read the full list.

So what are we supposed to do?

We can’t get the manufacturers to stop making the junk food. And in our rush-around lifestyle, we still need convenience.

(1) We can educate our schools and form a committee to help choose good foods for your children’s schools

(2) We can screen the movie “Two Angry Moms” in your area to educate the community. Yes, you can too! Powerful Parent Media Expert and Correspondant, Amy Jussel of Shaping Youth, is doing just that in San Francisco!

(3) Get your children into after-school programs that provide exercise. Powerful Words schools have excellent physical programs. If you need a recommendation of a school near you, please contact us.

(4) Brainstorm new options that provide healthy options for the children in fun, creative, and modern ways.

According to an interview with Risa Lavisso- Mourey, President and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (an organization devoted to healthcare in America):

I’m not in favor of going back to the 50s or 60s. We’re not going to solve this problem by taking a “retro-view” We’ve got to find 21st century solutions to how you can re-engineer activity back into the very busy schedules we all have—re-engineer making healthy choices and eating healthy and being able to do it in a quick, accessible way that fits the environment and lifestyles that people have now. Risa Lavisso- Mourey

She would like to see a society in which:

(1) Restaurants allow you to see the nutritional information with regard to what you’re choosing to put into your body. Nutritional information should be available, accessible, and displayed readily.

(2) Schools guarantee healthy, nutritional guidelines are met for breakfast, lunch, and after-school.

(3) Exercise is encouraged and engaged in everyday. Providing creative ways for children to have 30-60 minutes of physical activity everyday is essential in schools and after school programs.

As adults, we are the ones who create the environment for our kids. We do have a moral and ethical responsibility to make sure it’s as good or an environment as we know how to create.

–Risa Lavisso- Mourey

Would you like to see Risa Lavisso- Mourey’s complete 5 minute interview? See it here.

Let’s hear it from the boy:

Noah Horn, age 12, didn’t care about eating healthy or exercising until his father dies of a massive heart attack when Noah was in kindergarten. Noah connects his father’s sudden death to his unhealthy lifestyle, weight, diet, and lack of exercise. Amazingly, Noah made a conscious decision not to follow in his father’s footsteps—a path he had been taking until his father’s unexpected passing.

He tells the Washington Post:

“If I’m not exercising or eating the right foods, then I might end of like him. I might get heart disease, have a heart attack and die. So after that I decided to eating healthy and exercising more.

He made small switches:

(1) Ritz crackers to… wheat crackers

(2) Ice-cream to… frozen yogurt or sherbert

(3) Deep fried chicken to…”regular” baked chicken

(4) Almost no exercise to…trying to exercise everyday (even if just walking)

While Noah still needs to work on his cholesterol and he understands why eating foods with a lot of cholesterol is unhealthy and can be life threatening, as with his father. But a very high price needed to be paid.

“I’m not glad that he died but I am glad in a way because if he didn’t die then I wouldn’t be healthy.”

And while you might be pondering if Noah feels like his choices have been taken from him or he is no longer in control, hear this:

What makes Noah feel powerful?

“It makes me feel powerful that I’m winning over the bad cholesterol. I’m the winner over not exercising and eating bad foods. I am the winner. It makes me feel very powerful.”

It’s time to make some switches. Get your children on board and discuss some changes, even small ones that you can make today. What’s one thing that your children and your family can do today that could make a difference? Our children’s future is dependent upon it.

Note: For more great information on this specific topic, check out Shaping Youth’s article, featuring additional research and a helpful interview with YoNaturals.


12 Responses

  1. It is time to remove all fast food vending machines from schools, or at least replace them with healthy equivalents.

  2. […] Is there such a thing as ‘healthy vending’ and ’snacking naturally?’ […]

  3. […] Fast and Furious: Is the “Quick” and “Convenient” Food Offered at Your Child… […]

  4. […] I am frightened. Have we hit a new low? The diet, physical activity, school lunch options and overall health maintenance plan for school-age children has been so compromised in […]

  5. […] I’m feeling frightened. Have we hit a new low? The diet, physical activity, school lunch options and overall health maintenance plan for school-age children has been so compromised in […]

  6. […] for people to call this stuff “kid’s meals” when they are fit for children. So many fast food and convenient items are just as they say they are—fast and convenient but not often healthy. For the health of our […]

  7. […] do you think? Are we getting lazier? Why? Genetics? Poor physique? The Internet? Modern Conveniences ? Poor diet ? Too much help ? Need for more in-school or after-school […]

  8. […] they can eat and what toys might be acceptable substitutes for the old sugary pastimes on this all-access holiday. It wasn’t the gruesome costumes or gory masks turning up at Lisa Bruno’s front […]

  9. […] talked about the rise in cholesterol, weight, and now…kidney stones in children. “I thought older men get kidney stones, not kids,” […]

  10. […] media previously—we’ve heard explanations such as children tending to mindlessly eat (and eat high calorie food) in front of the TV. We’ve heard that children who are watching a lot of TV also are not outside […]

  11. […] media previously—we’ve heard explanations such as children tending to mindlessly eat (and eat high calorie food) in front of the TV. We’ve heard that children who are watching a lot of TV also are not outside […]

  12. […] it possible to teach girls to be physically active, eat healthily, and feel good about their body shape and size?  it seems to me, that psychological well being is […]

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