Retailers, consumers and prices
School lunch vs. junk food
School lunch ladies around the United States are fighting to feed healthier food to the nation’s increasingly overweight student body, but their biggest obstacle is competing with fast-food chains like McDonald’s and junk food like Doritos.
Despite that, studies have found that roughly two-thirds of schools had fast-food chains within easy walking distance.
West Adams Preparatory High School student Edgar Barragan, 16, ticked off a half-dozen private and public fast-food outlets near his high school, including McDonald’s and a Burger King that is located kitty-corner from school (see photo below).
Paola Villatoro, a 17-year-old at Downtown Magnet High School in Los Angeles, said she joins friends for lunch at a nearby fast-food joint a couple times a week: “There’s a Jack in the Box right across from school, so we get that.”
A fast-food restaurant within about 500 feet of a school may lead to at least a 5 percent increase in the obesity rate at that school, according to a recent study conducted by economists at Columbia University and the University California, Berkeley.
Corporate Accountability International has launched a “Value (the) Meal” campaign aimed at fast-food chains, which the public interest group alleges are putting the health of children at risk. The name of the push comes from fast-food restaurant value menus that often sell food items for $1 or less.
As part of the campaign, Corporate Accountability International started a project to map fast-food chains located near schools in Boston, Chicago and the San Francisco Bay area.
Gabriella Rodriguez, who works in a school cafeteria in Riverside, California, said she sees the unhealthy food choices kids make when they are given the option.
But competition from junk food is also rampant in areas where fast-food restaurants are not allowed and where students have no on-campus access to vending machines.
Jamestown, Rhode Island, is a leader in the state’s push to make school lunches healthier. Still, some elementary students there complain that the new, healthier pizza has “seeds” and say they miss the “greasy pizza,” tater tots and ice cream that used to be on the menu.
“I think they could add soda. It’s not healthy,but it’s better than water,” said Josef Cohen, 10.
He and other students have to go beyond the village’s limits to find fast-food, but kids dragged in plenty of junk food to school via brown-bagged lunches. That haul included potato chips, Doritos and chocolate chip cookies.