The School Campus Black Market

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Last week I told you about the illegal street vendor issue. Unfortunately they are not the only ones selling junk food to our kids. I visited a high school today and did a tour of the campus checking out the vending machines and student stores. They seemed to be in compliance for the most part and weren't selling snacks that didn't meet the nutrient guidelines spelled out in The Obesity Prevention Motion (TOPM).

I spent a few minutes talking with the student store managers about life now that TOPM is in place. They are not happy because their sales have gone way down. They told me prior to the implementation of TOPM they made about $1000 a day. Now they claim they barely crack $200. But if there's nothing else to buy you'd think they would get used to it. That would make sense eventually, but according to the managers a junk food black market has emerged on campus.

Let me preface this by letting you know, the TOPM nutrient guidelines only apply to foods sold on campus. Students can bring any food onto campus they get from home or elsewhere; so can teachers for that matter. According to the student store managers, both students and teachers are bringing in lots of Flaming Hot Cheetoes and the like. Then they turn around and sell them to each other in their classes. So the students are getting their 'junk food" snacks anyway, but the money is going to these entrepreneurs and not the schools, specifically the Associated Student Body.

I asked the managers what they would do to alleviate the problem, while still considering the health of the students. Of course they said stop the students and teachers from selling it in class. But they really do want the Flaming Hot Cheetoes etc back.

Furthermore, they don't think the approved 'healthy' snacks are necessarily any healthier than what they sold before. They compare the calorie counts, and claim these snacks are not that much different from the so called 'junk food' snacks. I explained that calories aren't the only nutrients we need to watch out for, but I do see their point. The student store sells things like Baked Lays, lower fat cookies, 'lite' muffins and brownies, Pretzel Poppers and the like (nuts and dried fruit are also available but not big sellers). I agree that the snacks could be better. We could only sell whole grain snacks, but would that help sales? I don't think so.

It's a conundrum. I go back to what I said in regards to the illegal vendor issue. The district needs to do a better job of communicating the intent of the policies; and that intent was to create a healthier school environment. And clearly it's not just the students who need some educating. We've got to get the teachers on board too to make this work.

I don't know the solutions, but I know they are out there. There has got to be a way to make a healthy school environment a reality. Workin' on it. Stay tuned.

Have a fruit and veggie filled day!
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About the Author

Registered dietitian Andrea N. Giancoli is a nutrition advocate, consultant and educator.

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